SPOTLIGHT: PHIFE DAWG TRIBUTE
It's still crazy to think that its been over a Year and 8 months since the devastating loss of Malik Izaak Taylor aka Phife Dawg aka The Five Footer aka Dynomutt (Tribe Called Quest and Native Tongues Collective). We, the team here at illeqwip, thought it was time to reflect on the influence and legacy left from this tiny yet larger than life human. His impact and touch on culture is undisputed. His effect, created with Q-tip, Ali Shaheed, Jarobi and the Native Tongue members on rap music and its everlasting culture is one that will go down in history forever. ATCQ are a staple to any music fan or artist involved in the cultural movement of Hip-Hop, hence the overwhelming out burst of emotions and tributes shown by fans and artists worldwide at the time of his passing.
‘Timeless’, ‘Classic’ and ‘Eternal’ are 3 adjectives that underpin his sonic genius that redirected hip-hop culture through the early 90's. ATCQ injected a feeling of consciousness and positivity to so many people worldwide with infectious grooves supported by poignant, clever and articulate rhyme patterns. The raspy voiced ‘Funky Diabetic’ is widely considered a ‘Rappers Rapper’ due to his consistency with punch lines and unmatched ability to command a listener’s attention with an opening line. Despite only describing himself as being as tall as Muggsy Bogue, Phife ensured his consumers of his music kept up on his level. Phife dragged a listener in time with him but somehow layered his verses with deeper thought for those analytical listeners. Both he and Q-tip had innate abilities to sit inside their musical arrangements and become one with the track. They captured the essence of a lifestyle in 4-minute compositions, touching a range of topics for everyday people. The musical chemistry between Phife and Tip is in my opinion the greatest of all time (Despite that not being anywhere reflected in their personal lives). It is this chemistry that places rap duos such as Red and Meth, Talib and Mos def and Andre & Big Boi respectively behind the Native Tongues dynamic pair.
Whether bragging about his lyrical fitness or describing his love for the female species, Phife’s opening lines are phrases that never leave your brain. This avid sports fan was a true wordsmith and held an unprecedented standard of delivery. It would be impossible to find or match any other artist with same ability to tattoo a listener’s cerebellum.
Taylor's death, although indescribably tragic, has always been looming. His well-documented battle with diabetes is one that dramatically effected ATCQ through out their illustrious career. The pressures of touring with an illness like diabetes and managing blood sugar levels halted many tours and events and left the band missing that extra love and shine that they truly deserved in the twilight of their career. To add to this, the frayed relationships between Q-tip and other members cut short reunion tours and possible future projects. To true fans this was deeply disappointing and ever so slightly dampened the bands legacy.
Despite this, their beautiful music remains. The moods and feeling of throwing on a Tribe record is in many ways indescribable. No matter the weather conditions or geographical location of a listener, you always end up on Linden Boulevard.
They will still always remain icons of rap music and as the culture expands in years to come, Hall Of Fame Legend Status would be an understated tag.
We here at illeqwip felt it was time to reflect on and celebrate a legacy that changed our perspectives growing up. Phife and Tribe re-modelled the culture we march with and stand by. We caught up with 2 iconic and patriotic artists and commentators in the greater Sydney scene and asked them what it was that made the 5ft Assassin such an eclectic and powerful artist. We also made sure they put their claim down for Phife Diggy’s most memorable opening line.
LOCAL Thoughts w/
DJ 2 Buck & THOMAS ROCK
DJ 2BUCK aka Key Buckets aka Big Double aka Czech Diss
[Tha Prolific Bingethinkers//Dialectrix//Three Corner Jaxxx.//Sydney Rap Guild//Record Addict]
Straight up- Phife n Tip got Mums approval. Where some selections were destined for the Walkman, Tribe had a bit of a green light with the home stereo. Phife laced that Jazz infused production effortlessly with honest lyricism accentuated by mad funk fuelled cadence. He was a major part in Mums attempt to legitimise Hip Hop as maybe something more than what she thought to be a teenage phase. I definitely kept those Too $hort tapes to myself- What I look like? Stoopid
My favourite opening Phife line?
"Low End Theory" had me wide open and the anticipation for a new ATCQ record was pretty high. When I scooped the Midnight Marauders LP I couldn't get home fast enough. Now... The record hits the platter... That little elevator style intro comes in and then... Those horns!!! "Linden Boulevard Reprezent Reprezent zent... A Tribe Called Quest Reprezent Reprezent zent". Soon as I heard that I knew the album was a classic! I don’t know man, something about the timing of it all felt crazy and to this day shit gets me amped! I was hanging for the record, now it's here and this how it starts? Killer!!! The simplicity, the repetition and use of delay is money. On top of that, that line sets up the whole joint. Obviously, in the second and third verses "Linden Boulevard" progresses into "Queens is in the house" & "New York City" which is now the lynch pin for the whole track, topically and stylistically. I mean - you barely know the name of the joint due to how iconic the opening phrase is- ya feel me?
Just for the record the joints called "Steve Biko" someone who I knew nothing about until Tribe. I had to look him up in the World Book (shout out to the Brittanica heads too.) Turns out that Steve Biko was a figure head activist who was instrumental in empowerment of black youths in South Africa. He was tortured and beaten to death in captivity by South African Police in an attempt to prolong Apartheid.
The line had more meaning than ever than I ever knew.
RIP Steve Biko
RIP Phife Dawg
[Hardcore Classic // Planet Crushers // Def Wish Cast]
RIP to the 5 Foot Assassin, Phife Dawg, and by extension, RIP to A Tribe Called Quest. Without Phife, there is no Tribe. Even with his minimal presence on the first LP, Tribe were always a group of friends first and foremost, pushing each other along, and in the case of their second album 'The Low End Theory' those friends pushing Phife equally alongside Q-Tip on the mic.
I find it interesting for the 2nd album Tip had set out to better the achievements of NWA's debut Straight Outta Compton and instead created an album that would basically set the tone for early 90s Hip-Hop, pushing the movement into a second golden era phase. The fact Dr Dre would later claim to be trying to beat Low End when making The Chronic just goes to show the impact and influence Tribe had on Hip-Hop. Phife Dog's impact on MCing is right there on Low End, just pure unabashed microphone wrecking that took it back to the stoop, to the street corner with flavour. His trademark throughout the years, that causal style constantly jumping between personal insights to almost pure random dopeness had an honesty like no one else. And you felt it.
Everything about Phife's rhymes feels 100% real to him at that time. And the random dope made for the best quotables that echo in your head nonstop. All that and Q-Tip's filtered bass and jazz styles define New York Hip-Hop for me. Tip would keep on his various creative missions through the years, but Phife's agenda was always just straight flavour. RIP Phife Dawg. A voice, style and presence on the mic like no other.
My favourite opening Phife line?
"Now here's a funky introduction of how nice I am, tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram"