Hip hop idol Ali Shaheed's shoes stolen at KL mosque
BY OLIVIA LEE
They say you never know someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes. Well, somewhere in Kuala Lumpur, someone is walking about in a pair of "fresh blue spanking crisp Adidas"—and carrying all the sins and faults of hip hop star Ali Shaheed Muhammad—because that man stole those sneakers from Ali during Friday prayers at Masjid Jamek last week.
The American rapper-producer-DJ from A Tribe Called Quest—one of the most artistic, iconic and intelligent hip hop acts of the '90s—as well as the "supergroup" Lucy Pearl, was in the capital for the Adidas All Originals 'Breathe And Stop' Southeast Asia 2012 Tour, together with Maseo from De La Soul, another important jazz rap band of the '90s, and DJ Shortkut from Beat Junkies.
You've got to feel sorry for a man when he loses his shoes while praying at a mosque—and perhaps embarrassed that it happened here, especially when he tweets about it to the whole world. Needless to say Ali was pretty surprised and disappointed—not that his sneakers were sneaked off but that the theft happened during the holy month.
"I was completely disheartened," he told Daily Chilli during a special interview at the Adidas All Originals store in Suria KLCC. "I know it happens. I'm not naïve or disillusioned about it. But it was heartbreaking especially [because] it's Ramadan and how we strive in this time to correct."
"So this is the month where, if you've done everything wrong for the other 11 months, this is the month where you just get it right. So I was a really disheartened by that," he said.
Yes, you've probably guessed right that it was a new pair of Adidas trainers, which Ali said stuck out like a shining star among a sea of sandals. "They were the freshest looking Adidas sitting on the shoe rack there," he said, half laughing and half still in disbelief. "There were just black sandals everywhere and my fresh blue spanking crisp Adidas."
"I wasn't worried because obviously I'm on the Adidas tour, and the Adidas people are taking care of us so diligently, and they're gracious so I know I'll get another pair, but it wasn't about that,” he added.
"It's the holy month and I felt, you know, that… I know what I've done and the Creator knows what I've done in my life, and you might not necessarily want to put on a pair of shoes of another person because you don't know what their soul is bearing. That's where I was with it."
"Welcome to Malaysia," he surmised with a laugh—and happy birthday, too, because Ali turned 42 the day after his kicks were nicked.
Ali was also shocked and pretty shaken when we broke the news to him that the only mosque in the American town of Joplin, Missouri, had been razed to ground just days before he arrived in Malaysia. The mosque had been a target of arson before, but now a fire had completely burnt the building down—and since Ali was on tour, he hadn't heard about it until now.
"For no reason, just hatred and lack of understanding and appreciating that we all come from the same place… I guess that's where we truly are in America, a country that has gone through so much to live up to the values of what the Constitution says, although when it was written it wasn't equal," he said.
"But we are still a young country striving to get to that [equality] and no matter how far mankind gets in to really coming together, it can be one little thing, one little thread that's out of line, and [when] you pull it, it tears us apart. [It's] kind of heartbreaking," he told us.
As an African-American Muslim, even for a respected celebrity, Ali says that living in the US post 9/11 has been challenging. "It's not difficult for me," he said, "Actually it was frustrating but not difficult."
"My parents were civil rights activists, so if anything, I felt as a part Native American or as a black man in America and as a Muslim, I think that I had a voice. Not the Arab experience but as a black male Native American experience," he told us .
"For the Muslim who felt… I'll say from the Arab countries, they really wholly represent… There's always in their thinking it's not really true and complete to Islam—not for every Arab but for some, and for the non-Muslims in America—the lack of understanding of what it truly is to be Muslim because there are a lot of people who felt like you should go home."
"I have Native blood running through my veins, so I have more of a right to be [in America] and to actually say something, and to expose and educate you about Islam. So it wasn't difficult but I think it was just… I can see my life had a bit of purpose, and being in a position as a musician, I'm able to speak and connect. I want to use it for good."
Images: Shaari Chemat, Low Boon Tat
Published: 15th August 2012