Remembering a Pioneer: RIP to A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg
The hip-hop community has come together to kick it and rock and roll to the beat of the funk fuzz in honor of Phife Dawg. The lyrical linchpin of the groundbreaking hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest passed away at the age of 45 today from complications with diabetes, sending music fans into mourning. Born Malik Taylor, the 5’3” tall musician–known as the Five Foot Assassin–founded Tribe in Queens, NY, with his schoolmates Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, way back in 1985. Their infusion of funky ’70s jazz with socially conscious lyricism gave a welcome reprieve from the gangsta rap that dominated the genre and made them legends.
Over the course of his career, Phife encouraged higher standards of lyricism and created a catalogue of hits with Tribe. While Q-Tip was known for his sharp and cryptic words, the Five Foot Assassin brought his rhymes to the street with a signature sense of humor in tracks like ‘Bonita Applebum,” ”Can I Kick It?” and “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo.” The group recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of their 1991 debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, and they were immortalized in the 2011 documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest. The director of the documentary, Michael Rapaport, spoke out about Phife’s passing with a heartfelt message on Complex.
Phife was always like the guy you could relate to on the corner. He was the dude you felt like you knew,” he recalled. “It would be hard to find someone to say anything bad about him. He was just a good dude, a sweet dude.”
The pioneer has influenced the careers of everyone from Kanye West and Pharrell to Questlove and Pusha T. Now, the hip-hop community has taken to Twitter, Instagram, and other outlets to pay their respects. As the music world mourns the loss of Phife, we’ll always remember him as an inspirational figure who brought lyrical consciousness to East Coast rap.
Kendrick Lamar and 18,000 fans pay tribute to Phife Dawg.
— Complex (@ComplexMag) March 23, 2016
RIP to the one and only Phife Dawg. Very sad. pic.twitter.com/NSyNAsWjzj
— Aesop Rock (@AesopRockWins) March 23, 2016
Stay tuned to Milk for more hip-hop legends.
Image via Getty.