March 22nd, 2016 a legend in hip-hop or should I say music coming out of New York most notably Queens in the early ’90s bringing that Afrocentric beats and flows to the game in A Tribe Called Quest Mr. Phife Dawg aka Phife Diggy aka Malik Issac Taylor himself sadly pasted away. He was only 45 and battled with diabetes for years pretty much since the creation of Tribe.
Now to understand his impact on music you must understand his and Tribes impact on me. So when I was a little kid I was always very fascinated with my older siblings being the youngest of 5 and all my siblings being in high school when I was little. My siblings listed to many different genera of music from R&B to Rock to oldies to whatever was on the radio and hip-hop was defiantly one of them. My sister and my brother both listened to it and when I was really little my bother would leave the house and I would sneak into his room and listen to whatever he had in his stereo. That is where I learned about hip-hop from Snoop Doggy Dog, Bone-Thugs & Harmony, the Beastie Boys, and Common Sense among others. Of course at the time I didn’t know what I was listening to but I liked the flow and beat of it. A Tribe Called Quest was something both my sister and brother listened to in the car and it defiantly had this punchiness that most other artist didn’t.
It wasn’t until I was in high school and started to rediscover a lot of hip-hop from when I was a kid I was starting to appreciate it more. Then when I was in AmeriCorps people on my team and I would jam out to Tribe on the way to work and places riding around in our white van which always put a smile on my face. It was nice to find other who liked their music as much as me who were younger then my siblings. After that I then started to rediscover A Tribe Called Quest even more which really shaped how I look at music to this day.
Tribe came out during a time when gangster rap was becoming the mainstream and what people like Queen Latifah and others did for the more Afrocentric-jazz/house type b boy or girl hip-hop of the late ’80s was starting to be replaced. When Tribe came on the scene back in 1990 with People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm (which just celebrated it’s 25th anniversary a few months ago) it was really a cultural phenomenon for all those hip-hop heads who weren’t really feeling the more hard vibes of gangster rap and even for those who did. This album with some of my favorite Tribe songs like Can I Kick It?, I Left My Wallet in El Segundo & Bonita Applebum. They would have 4 more albums with many hits and working with many different artist.
They along with their counterparts in Leaders of the New School, De La Soul, The Mighty Souls of Mischief among others brought that playfulness back in hip-hop mixed with the Afrocentric way they dressed and what they talked about on their records was more conscious and socially aware then just about girls, money and cars. Also they mixed a lot of jazz instrumentals in their music. I personally wish this version of hip-hop had been able to get bigger but gangster rap won out but even today you can hear some MCs who are influenced by this time. From Tribe to all the work they did with the Native Tongues movement and album they really go down in hip-hop and music as musical innovators.
But what made Phife Dawg so special? Well compared to Q-Tip who’s rhythms where smooth and more melodic Phife was more aggressive with his rhymes and being only 5’3” I understand why (I’m only 4’9”). But also he carried some real fire power when he spits on the mic. The Low End Theory really was were Phife gets to shine. What I think is the most sad about Phife is he had to deal with diabetes for his whole career and although he has tried to stop eating sugar in the past but like any addiction he couldn’t fight it and it just kept getting worse. He even talks about this in the 2011 documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest where he says he just really likes sugar. In 2008 after waiting two years he did get a kidney transplant from his wife but sadly it didn’t help and he needed another one. Another sad thing is that him and Q-Tip who started Tribe because they were high school friends but business and the group got to them and ruined their relationship which is why Tribe broke up in ’98. They have been cordial to one another over the years but never really fully repaired that relationship. Phife even said the last time he was on ESPN that he wanted to put out another album with the guys but it was a matter of Tip. Of course I still believe that Q-Tip still cared about Phife they were brothers and although brothers fight he still loved him.
Today and everyday you are remembered Phife a true MC and musical genius! #RIPPhifeDawg
People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm
I Left My Wallet in El Segundo:
Can I Kick It?
The Low End Theory
Buggin’ Out/Jazz (We’ve Got)
The Infamous Date Rape
Check the Rhyme
Scenario (ft. Leaders of the New School)
Oh My God
Lyrics to Go
Beats, Rhymes and Life
Get A Hold
The Love Movement
Find A Way
Tribe & Other Artist
Fugees ft. A Tribe Called Quest & Busta Rhymes- Rumble In The Jungle
Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest
25th Anniversary Addition of: People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm
*REST IN PEACE PHIFE DAWG!*