Filmmakers Queen Muhammad Ali, in center, and Hakeem Khaaliq, on right at “Comin’ Up Short” BFI London screening Photos: UK Muslim Film

In a revealing documentary that has been captivating audiences and critics alike, “Comin’ Up Short” brings to light the extraordinary life of Jerome “Shorty” Muhammad, a respected name in hip hop, Los Angeles gang life, and the Nation of Islam.

Produced and directed by the acclaimed duo, Queen Muhammad Ali and Hakeem Khaaliq, this award-winning film unveils the untold story of a figure who not only influenced the legendary Ice Cube but also left an indelible mark on the Los Angeles community.

For fans of Ice Cube, the lyrics of “It Was a Good Day” hint at a mysterious individual known as Shorty. The song depicts a fictional day in Los Angeles, forsaking violence. Those familiar with the lyrics of the song will recall Ice Cube saying, “went to Short Dog’s house, we were watching YO! MTV Raps.”

This documentary ventures beyond the music to introduce the man behind the moniker, whose life journey from a feared gang leader to a protective figure for Ice Cube, following his split from NWA, encapsulates themes of redemption, loyalty, and resilience.


“You’ll never find a dude that’s, you know, more loyal … he was our (Da Lench Mob) conscious in a lot of ways. He would tell us, you know, things like how we should be living, the things that we needed to stay away from,” said Ice Cube during Shorty’s janazah (Islamic funeral service) in 2019.

Brother Jerome “Shorty” Muhammad had a huge impact on Los Angeles. “He had street credibility; he had credibility with the hip hop artists, and he was serious about his Islam,” West Coast Regional Student Minister Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad told The Final Call. Over 80 different ’hoods showed up for his janazah.

It was Bro. Jerome who got all the West Coast hip hop artists on a plane to come see the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in 1997 for the Peace Summit that helped settle many differences within the hip hop community, he explained.

“Comin’ Up Short” is told via a monologue format that allows Shorty’s powerful narrative to unfold with raw authenticity.

This decision, as explained by director Queen Muhammad Ali, was driven by Shorty’s exceptional ability as a storyteller, which the film leverages to draw audiences into a world far removed from mainstream narratives of Los Angeles.

Vérité documentary filmmaking is acknowledged as the most challenging genre, where the narrative unfolds organically during the filming process, striving to minimize manipulation in the editing phase.

The filmmakers initially set out to explore health issues within the hip hop community, with plans to document Shorty’s journey toward recovery, including his hopeful receipt of a kidney donation.

However, the project took a heartbreaking turn as Shorty’s health rapidly deteriorated, a development that deeply affected the entire production team, explained Khaaliq Muhammad.

Tragically, Shorty passed away while the team was in American Samoa, compelling them to return to Los Angeles to assist his family with funeral arrangements. Ice Cube generously financed his janazah, leaving Steve Muhammad-EL, Queen Muhammad Ali, and Hakeem Khaaliq with the responsibility of completing the film.

Produced independently by Nation19 and Ice Cube, the film has won many prestigious awards, including screenings in Los Angeles that brought opposing gangs together to view the documentary.

The documentary does not shy away from confronting social and political complex issues, delving into the CIA’s role in the proliferation of guns and drugs within Black communities, thereby setting a backdrop to Shorty’s life of crime and subsequent transformation.

“Mainstream television and films have historically exploited a negatively stereotyped, vague narrative of Black America, especially South Central Los Angeles during that time period. Typically, the directors and producers are not from the community, which, of course, is significantly different with us,” said Hakeem Khaaliq. “While researching the film Bro.

Shorty, Queen’s father (Ahmad Muhammad Ali), and many others shared with us their eyewitness accounts of how drugs were deposited on train tracks and high-powered artillery was sold to street organizations in South Central by nefarious government individuals. Popular narratives tend to depict the Black community as if we just went crazy, but this film exposes the unseen hand,” he added.

“ ‘Comin’ Up Short’ captures the end of the period in rap I call the ‘glitch in the matrix’ before the White power structure even understood the power of rap and hip hop culture.

The documentary was where truth, history, nostalgia, and prophecy intersect for me! Dope!” said Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers.
Its compelling narrative is enhanced by a musical score from Masaniai Muhammad Ali, contributing to an immersive viewing experience.

As a result, “Comin’ Up Short” has garnered recognition and accolades for its insightful portrayal and impactful message, with prestigious screenings that have notably included the British Film Institute (BFI) in London. The BFI screening was held in 2023 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of hip hop.

“The film received a standing ovation at the Los Angeles screening, with a packed theater audience of hip hop legends (Professor Griff, Hen G, DJ Chilly Chill, Boo Ya T.R.I.B.E.), and rival street organizations from Crips, Bloods, Mexicans, and Samoans who came together to celebrate Shorty’s positive impact on Los Angeles and to unite in peace,” explained Mr. Khaaliq.

“The Hip Hop Film Festival in Brooklyn, New York, gave the film its highest honor of “Best of the Fest,” beating out submissions from BET and other networks.

Additionally, the prestigious British Film Institute (BFI) in London organized a screening, inviting a diverse audience of film experts, hip hop fans, Caucasians, and Muslims of Indian descent who all praised the transformative message of the film and thanked us for making the documentary,” added Mr. Khaaliq.

“It felt like a mini Million Man March because it was all love in that theater, and the place was packed,” said DJ Chilly Chill, a renowned music producer.
Now available for streaming on Amazon Prime and Freevee, “Comin’ Up Short” stands as a powerful tribute to Jerome “Shorty” Muhammad, whose voice continues to inspire and resonate long after his passing.