Kamaal Ibn John Fareed (born Jonathan Davis on April 10, 1970), better known by his stage name Q-Tip, is an American rapper and record producer from St. Albans, Queens, New York. He embarked on his music career as part of the critically acclaimed East Coast hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest. John Bush of AllMusiccalled him "the best rapper/producer in hip-hop history," while editors of About.com placed him on their list of the Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers, as well as placing him on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007). In 2012, The Source ranked him #20 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time.
Born Jonathan Davis on April 10, 1970 in Harlem, he converted to Islam in the mid-1990s, and changed his name to Kamaal Ibn John Fareed. He moved to St. Albans, Queens as a child. As referenced in the song "Check the Rhime", he mostly resided at Linden Boulevard. His father was from Montserrat, a British territory in the eastern Caribbean. His mother is an African American from Alabama. His sister, Gwen, is eight years older than him. He attended Murry Bergtraum High School in Manhattan, New York. According to Fareed, he was given his stage name by Afrika Baby Bam of Jungle Brothers, which he used as a replacement for his prior name, MC Love Child.
He has also said that the Q in Q-Tip stands for Queens and he is often referred to as Tip, which later caused problems when a Southern rapper, now known as T.I., signed to Arista Records and attempted to use the stage name Tip, which was later shortened to T.I. to avoid confusion with his then-labelmate Q-Tip. Throughout his career, he also called himself "The Abstract". He said that one of the main people in his life that inspired him was his childhood friend, Mohammed Sead. Q-Tip lives in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. He is the cousin of Consequence, who was featured heavily on Beats, Rhymes and Life. According to a DNA analysis, he descended, mainly, from the Jola people of Guinea-Bissau.
In 1985, Q-Tip, together with high school friends Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White, founded the critically acclaimed hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest. The band signed to Jive Records and released five studio albums during its initial run, splitting up in 1998.
A Tribe Called Quest reunited in 2006 and played a limited number of dates. All members of the original lineup returned for the 2006 group, including Q-Tip and occasional member Jarobi.
Outside of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip rapped on the highly successful 1990 track "Groove Is in the Heart" by Deee-Lite, the 1994 Beastie Boys track "Get It Together", the 1995 Mad Skillz track "Extra Abstract Skillz," and the 2005 The Chemical Brothers track "Galvanize".
After the breakup of Tribe in 1998, Q-Tip pursued a solo career. His first solo singles, "Vivrant Thing" and "Breathe and Stop", were far more pop-oriented than anything he had done in A Tribe Called Quest, as was his solo debut LP for Arista Records, Amplified, released in 1999. Pitchfork noted on the change in tenor, remarking, "Abstract the storyteller and social critic [has] been replaced by a scarcely recognizable, sex-obsessed MC."
The release of his 2002 follow-up, Kamaal/The Abstract, was delayed despite critical acclaim and an issued a catalog number; Arista believed that it did not have commercial appeal. It eventually leaked onto the Internet, and the distribution of promotional copies led several publications to run reviews of the album. The album was finally released on September 15, 2009, on Battery Records after being shelved for seven years.
Following his work on Kamaal/The Abstract, Q-Tip featured on R.E.M.'s 2004 album Around the Sun, with a rap on "The Outsiders". Early in 2007, Q-Tip signed a new solo deal with Motown/Universal Records. In 2008, Q-Tip appeared on DJ/producer Statik Selektah's first album Spell My Name Right, on the tracks "Stop, Look, & Listen" with Styles P and Termanology.
Q-Tip is among a group of producers who were brought in by Kanye West to work on his fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He appeared in 2010 on Mark Ronson's album, Record Collection, on the song entitled "Bang Bang Bang" with MNDR, for which a video was released. For Kanye West's andJay-Z's collaborative album Watch the Throne he produced "That's My Bitch" and co-produced "Lift Off". Q-Tip was the headliner at the 2011 Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival with a set called, 'Q-Tip and Friends'. Accompanying him on stage were Monie Love, Black Thought, Busta Rhymes, and Kanye West. In 2013, Q-Tip was featured on Busta Rhymes's "Thank You" and then released a collaboration mixtape titled The Abstract & The Dragon on December 12, 2013. He is currently working his fourth studio album The Last Zulu and is producing Kanye West's 2015 album with Rick Rubin.
Q-Tip produced the first three A Tribe Called Quest albums with Ali Shaheed Muhammad, with the exception of contributions from Skeff Anselm ("Eight Million Stories", "Everything Is Fair") and Large Professor ("Keep It Rolling"). Q-Tip did production work as part of the production company The Ummah, alongside fellow Tribe member Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and the late Slum Village member J Dilla. Outside of his work with Tribe, Q-Tip produced for such artists asApache ("Gangsta Bitch", 1993), Nas ("One Love", from Illmatic, 1994), Mobb Deep ("Give up the Goods (Just Step)", "Temperature's Rising", and "Drink Away the Pain", from The Infamous, 1995) and R&B singers Mariah Carey ("Honey", from Butterfly, 1997) and Whitney Houston ("Fine", from Whitney: The Greatest Hits). He co-wrote and featured in Janet Jackson's song "Got 'til It's Gone" from the album The Velvet Rope in 1997. He co-produced jazz guitaristKurt Rosenwinkel's 2003 release Heartcore. He is/has been involved with producing for Phife Dawg, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, Rza, Wale, Asher Roth,Esperanza Spalding, Chiddy Bang, Pusha T, Melanie Fiona, Mark Ronson, Busta Rhymes, D'Angelo, Questlove, Kanye West, John Legend, Roc Marciano, and Mariah Carey, once again.
On March 18, 2013, Q-Tip was a Special Guest of Honor for the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding at the home of Def Jam Recordings co-founder, Russell Simmons, who serves as Chairman of The Foundation. Q-Tip was invited by friend Ali Naqvi, who is a Trustee of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Chairman of MindShare Ventures Group in New York City. Q-Tip received this invitation to be Special Guest of Honor, for being one of the most successful Muslim music artists and producers in the world.