Grammy Award-winner Q-Tip joins the creative team of ALI, the new musical celebrating the life of Muhammad Ali
Richard Willis, lead producer of ALI, the new musical celebrating the life and legacy of the heavyweight boxing champion and humanitarian Muhammad Ali, is proud to announce the addition of Grammy Award winner Q-Tip as Music Producer and Co-Lyricist to the creative team of the musical. Also joining Teddy Abrams in the music department of ALI are Grammy Award winning saxophonist and vocalist Casey Benjamin as Associate Music Producer, and Sean Mayes (MJ, Hadestown) as Music Supervisor. ALI will be presented in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, in Fall 2024.
Q-Tip said “Muhammad Ali has been an inspiration for me my entire life. I look forward to working with Teddy, Clint, Casey, Sean, and the entire creative team in telling the great man’s story in this form.
Clint Dyer, ALI director and book writer, added “I am thrilled to be working with Q-Tip, who is one of my music heroes and the perfect person to join us in telling Muhammed Ali’s story, as well as the uber talented Casey and Sean. Q-Tip is most definitely one of Hip-Hop’s biggest artists and a great collaborator/producer. Co-writing the lyrics for ALI with him will be an honour.”
Teddy Abrams, ALI composer, said “We are incredibly fortunate to have Q-Tip, Casey, and Sean join the music team. They are all world-class talents with tremendous musical vision and knowledge; they are already bringing exceptional energy and inspiration to the musical!”
Richard Willis said “We are beyond delighted and grateful to have the living legend, Q-Tip, join this extraordinary creative team on ALI. Q-Tip’s artistry, knowledge and experience is unmatched. If that wasn’t enough, to also have the incredible Casey Benjamin and brilliant Sean Mayes joining the team makes this all feel a bit surreal yet fitting for The Greatest.”
Q-Tip (Music Producer/Co-Lyricist). Famously known as co-founder of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip has become one of the most influential Hip Hop figures of all-time, uniquely fusing rap, jazz, and other styles with piercing, socially conscious lyrics. The group released its sixth and final album We Got It From Here…Thank You For Your Service in November 2016 to glowing critical acclaim.
His atypical approach and appreciation to hip hop as well as other genres has earned Q-Tip success as a solo artist and producer, working with such celebrated artists as the Beastie Boys, Busta Rhymes, J. Dilla, Janet Jackson, Queen Latifah, Pharrell Williams, Mark Ronson, and Mary J. Blige. He has most recently collaborated with Solange, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Arcade Fire and the Chemical Brothers. Q-Tip’s critically praised solo albums include Amplified, Grammy®-nominated The Renaissance, and Kamaal the Abstract.
Q-Tip’s artistic innovation and exploration continues through his work as a recording artist, a music producer, a DJ, an actor, a film producer, curator, advocate, and ambassador of Hip Hop Culture. He brings his industry expertise to the Kennedy Center to curate a full season of Hip Hop across disciplines, transforming the performing arts center into a home for Hip Hop Culture and history for years to come.
Casey Benjamin (Associate Music Producer).Two-time Grammy® award-winning Casey Benjamin is the first original member of the Robert Glasper Experiment. Through his melodic ingenuity on the vocoder, textual mastery on the keytar and spiky virtuosity on the alto, soprano and tenor saxophone, Benjamin gives the Experiment its most defining sound that has enabled it to gain international acclaim in the jazz, R&B and hip-hop scenes on such trailblazing albums as Black Radio (Blue Note Records, 2012) and Black Radio 2 (Blue Note Records, 2013).
In addition to the Experiment, Benjamin toured with singer Patrick Stump (Fall Out Boy) and has performed/toured/recorded with a string of other stellar musicians from jazz to hip hop to pop including singer Betty Carter, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Mos Def, Q-Tip, A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West, Diddy, Wyclef Jean, Anderson Paak, Pusha T, Common, Maxwell, Solange, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Drake. With singer and songwriter Nicky Guiland, Benjamin co-leads the funk-forward combo, HEAVY, which has released three discs –HEAVY (Kindred Spirits, 2000), Jazz Money$$ (BBE, 2007) and First Sessions (Kindred Spirits, 2008).
Benjamin started playing the saxophone when he was 8 years old. After graduating from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art, Benjamin attended The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City, where he met Robert Glasper in 1997. Benjamin and Glasper collaborated formally in 2004 with the first edition of the Robert Glasper Experiment. Although Benjamin remains a central member of the Robert Glasper Experiment, he’s working on his forthcoming solo project coming out soon.
Sean Mayes (Music Supervisor) Sean Mayes (Music Supervisor). Born in Toronto and based out of New York City, Sean Mayes enjoys an active and varied career internationally as a conductor, music director, orchestrator, arranger, composer, author, and educator across North America and Europe, with his work spanning numerous musical styles through the world’s largest theatres and concert halls, between Broadway, theatre, opera, classical and pops. In New York, Mr. Mayes shares his time as conductor for two Tony AwardÒ-winning productions, MJ: The Musical and Hadestown, and is a frequent music director of numerous engagements within the Broadway community. Recent symphonic conducting engagements include conducting the American Pops Orchestra in “Black Broadway: A Proud History, a Limitless Future” for National Television on PBS, featuring a select star line up of Broadway’s most established Black performers. Internationally, Mayes serves as a Conductor and Music Supervisor of productions across the globe. In Fall 2022, Mr. Mayes served as music director and conductor of the new musical Mandela, inspired by the life of Nelson Mandela at the Young Vic Theatre in London. Additional recent credits include serving as music supervisor for the International Finnish Premiere of the musical, Come From Away. At home in Canada, Mayes was music director and conductor of the all-Canadian premiere of The Color Purple in 2019, for which he was awarded the 2020 Merritt Award for Outstanding Musical Direction. As music supervisor, recent work includes supervision of Black HERstory, an all-immersive two-day joint event with AFROPUNK at Lincoln Center featuring an all-star line-up of Black musical talent, and as music supervisor of RENT: In Concert at the Kennedy Center.
ALI’s creative team also includes the previously announced director and book writer Clint Dyer (Deputy Artistic Director of the National Theatre; Othello; Olivier Award®-nominated Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical; Death of England/Death of England: Delroy), and composer Teddy Abrams (youngest Musical Director to lead a major American Orchestra, Musical America’s Conductor of the Year Award for 2022), Choreography/Fight Choreography by Rich + Tone Talauega (MJ The Musical), Set Design by Anna Fleischle (Olivier Award® Winner, Tony Award® Nominee – Hangmen, Once Upon a One More Time, Time Traveller’s Wife), Costume Design by Emilio Sosa(Sweeney Todd, 2-time Tony Award® Nominee for Trouble In Mind and The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess), Lighting Design by Jen Schriever (A Strange Loop – Tony Award® Nominee, 1776), Video/Projections/Media Design by Tal Yarden(Network – Tony Award® Nominee, Sunday in the Park with George) and Gino Ricardo Green (Get Up Stand Up, The National Theatre’s Othello), Sound Effects Design by Ben Grant (The National Theatre’s Othello, Get Up Stand Up). The Associate Director is Asmeret Ghebremichael (The Notebook, Dreamgirls), Creative Dramaturge is Fred Carl (Associate Arts Professor in the NYU Tisch Graduate School for Musical Theatre Writing), Special Boxing Consultant and Fight Coordinator is Michael “Silk” Olajide, Jr. (former Middleweight Champion; trained by Angelo Dundee, Muhammad Ali’s World Champion trainer;Blade to the Heat; Fetch Clay, Make Man), and Casting Director is Jim Carnahan. Additional members of the creative and design teams will be announced soon.
ALI is produced by Richard Willis, Brook T. Smith, David & Michelle Campbell, and TheTribecaWorkshop in collaboration with ABG Entertainment in partnership with Lonnie Ali. In telling Muhammad Ali’s story, ALI will utilize the musical theatre medium to explore the life of the man who overcame tremendous odds to become the G.O.A.T and who used his platform to become one of the most influential and inclusive civil rights leaders the world may ever know.
Deemed “The Greatest of All Time,” Ali was born in 1942 and raised during the early years of television and the American dream. His childhood in Louisville, Kentucky, along with the love and devotion from his mother (and later from his wife Lonnie), set the stage for him to become not only the greatest boxer of all time, as well as an activist, entertainer, artist, and philanthropist. Ali’s combination of courage, confidence, swagger, compassion, humor and optimism united people during The American Civil Rights Movement, and his vision for a world without hate inspired generations of activists who continue to inspire today’s generation.
Casting and performance dates will be announced soon. For more information, visit here…