Born Jonathan William Davis in Harlem, he moved to Queens as a child. 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. In 1989, he formed A Tribe Called Quest with his high school friends Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White. The group signed to Jive Records and released five studios albums before dissolving.
Q-Tip signed to Arista Records to release his solo debut album, Amplified, in 1999, which was more pop-oriented than anything he had done previously. Its follow up, Kamaal the Abstract, was originally planned for a 2002 release, but it became shelved when Arista did not believe it would sell. Q-Tip signed to Motown/Universal Records for the release of his album The Renaissance in 2008, which was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2010 Grammy Awards. He is currently working on his fourth studio album, The Last Zulu.