“I love hip-hop, B-Boy round the clock, doin non-stop” – Phife Dawg
My first memory of Tribe Called Quest was the Scenario video. I find it interesting how everyone laments Busta’s verses, and rightfully so, but what impressed me the most was the 5-foot freak, Phife Dawg. First to grace the now iconic track, Phife say’s “Bust a nut in your eye to show you where I come from”.
I cannot begin to express the importance of Tribe Called Quest to my life and the impact it played. The Low End Theory was not the first album I owned. Truthfully, It is not even the first album I listened to. What stands out the most is Phife’s standout moments, everything from the opening salvo on Buggin Out to the underrated Butter. It was obvious that Phife stepped his game up. Please do not get me wrong! His importance to the group was not his lyrical ability, but the duality he brought to the group. Phife was the ying to Q-Tip’s yang. If Q-Tip was Superman, Phife was Clark Kent, a man’s man rapper with no shame in his game. He was also an avid lover of all sports with references from Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Broadway Jo Namath to Charles Oakley and Scott Skiles. Nevermore was Phife’s love of sports on display then in the Michael Rapport’s 2011 documentary called Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest. A documentary that also illustrated how fragmented the group’s relationship had become as well as providing insight into Phife’s health issues and struggle with Type 1 Diabetes. Phife talked about his health in verses with lyrics like, “when was the last time you heard a funky diabetic”. His wife, Deisha Head Taylor, gave him a kidney in 2008, but Phife’s constant struggle would inevitably be the end of the iconic rapper’s life. His legacy continues through Tribe Called Quest’s everlasting impression on music.
RIP Malik Isaac Taylor
11/20/70 – 03/22/16