Sadly the hip-hop community says goodbye to one of our favorite MCs, Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ).
Another artist in my personal Top 5 is gone way too soon (Guru was the other and if we go top 10, add Heavy D.). Just yesterday at the gym, I was listening to the Tribe and the Five-foot assassin dropped, “When’s the last time you heard a funky diabetic?”, and I remember from their documentary that it was a bit freeing for him to drop that he was struggling with diabetes publicly on a track. The brother struggled and still tried to perform even with his health issues over the years.
I’m at that age where I think most music these days is garbage and not as good as what I listened to grow up. My parents felt the same way about “that rap” and I remember churches calling it “jungle music” (yea, the racism isn’t too hidden in that term is it?). But ATCQ was the group that had a very positive impact on us growing up, and I think many of the Christian hip-hop lyricists that sound so good today are fruits to those early years.
Like most fans, I’ve never met “the one they call Phife”, but he was the guy I wanted to be with a mic and his persona seemed to capture and represent where I was at in my life. I’m an avid sports fan, and Phife always sported some team logo despite having a physique that most would not consider athletic. But that seemed to be the Phife we knew from his lyrics, the guy that had aspirations like us and was going to do his thing regardless of what people thought.
“You see I’m far from a bully and I ain’t a punk”
As the record industry started elevating gang-culture and even creating fake studio gangsters, ATCQ spoke for brothers like me that, as we say today, “weren’t about that life”. We weren’t checkin’ Jordan’s or Max Julian’s in, beefin’ about colors or hanging out. We would just sit back and kick it about Rodney King, who is the best MC, who is the best DJ, whether Spike Lee movies are any good and are your Cross-Colors big enough. But we weren’t down for getting punked on the street physically or intellectually and that really was what early 90s hip-hop was all about, and ATCQ personified it so well.
To see the video below and even hear NPR report of his passing is a tremendous tribute.
Press release from: http://atribecalledquest.com/phife-dawg/
Statement from A Tribe Called Quest on the death of Malik I. Taylor a.k.a Phife Dawg The 5 ft. Assassin
Our hearts are heavy. We are devastated. This is something we weren’t prepared for although we all know that life is fleeting. It was no secret about his health and his fight. But the fight for his joy and happiness gave him everything he needed. The fight to keep his family happy, his soul happy and those around him happy, gave him complete and unadulterated joy… until he heeded his fathers call.
We love his family his mother, his father, his son, his wife, his nieces, his family here in New York, Atlanta, California and Trinidad.
Thank you for the outpouring of prayers and support from the fans, fellow artists, music outlets, blogs, radio stations, DJ’s, social media and the music community at large. This too is part of his joy and means a lot to him. His family is overwhelmed by the support, well wishes and are thankful. His music and what he’s contributed is seismic and hard to measure. He’s affected us as much as he’s affected all of you. We’re inspired by his daily joy and courage. He wasn’t in pain. He was happy.
We take comfort in knowing he will be beside his grandmother.
“Now here I go, once again with the ill flow
Other MC’s that rap, their style is so-so
Phife Dawg was never the type that ever lacked skills
I just stay true to my roots and then I get ill
Twenty years of age but yet I still see (KNOWLEDGE)
And this year, was so-called, my Senior year in (COLLEGE)
But I chose to pursue, in a field called music
And with some hype beats and breaks you know I won’t refuse it
Get on the board lay down the track and I’ll do ten laps
Pass the pen, pass the pad, and I’ll kick nuff (RAPS)
Just come inside your jam and witness who is boss
And it won’t be Tony Danza nor Diana Ross
As small as I am, I still can pack jams
Do a freestyle and step, but yet I still slam
Not trying to say that no one can get with me
Not only is it the lyrics I write, it’s my delivery
Name one rapper that you know who has this high-strung voice
My name’s Malik and I’m unique, in other words top choice
Nothing commercial bout this, it’s mainly hardcore
Now that you got what you want, do you want more
Because I got more in store…”
- La Schmoove – Fu-Schnickens