Phife Dawg Will Always Be Hip Hop For Me

phife dawg

A Tribe Called Quest member Malik Taylor aka Phife Dawg is dead at the age of 45.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love hip-hop and that my favorite hip-hop act is A Tribe Called Quest. While Q-Tip was always the commercial face and “leader” of the group, the lyrics that delighted my ears and remain etched into my brain belonged to Phife Dawg, born Malik Taylor. Well, now he’s dead after many health issues including diabetes which required a kidney transplant in 2008.

Phife Dawg

Phife was born November 20th, 1970, in the Jamaica area of Queens, NY. Living in the same area as Q-Tip, he would meet his future groupmate at the age of 2, with the duo attending the same school and playing little league baseball together. He would visit his grandmother, a strict Seventh-day Adventist, on weekends and sneak in episodes of Soul Train for his early musical education.

At the age of 19, Taylor contributed verses to four songs on A Tribe Called Quest’s 1990 debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Taylor and fellow Tribe member Jarobi had planned to start their own group, but the two would join Q-Tip and producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad officially on 1991’s Low End Theory.

Midnight Marauders would appear two years later. Taylor moved to Atlanta from New York following the release of Marauders, a shift he claimed exacerbated the infighting that had been increasing in the group. Two more albums would follow — 1996’s Dilla-co-produced Beats, Rhymes & Life and 1998’s The Love Movement. Following the group’s dissolution, Taylor continued to battle diabetes, reuniting with the group for live shows, in part to help defray medical costs.

I think Phife particularly spoke to me because, like him, I am not only a huge hip-hop head but an avid sports fan. Phife’s sports references are legendary and are covered in depth by Sean Gentille.

I am not devastated by Phife’s passing as death is a part of life; actually it is the only guaranteed thing in life. However, as a thirty something hip-hop head and sports fan, it’s a reminder that combination was unique and should be appreciated because life is fleeting. The essence of Phife, for me, is embodied in this “Ghost Weed” (in which users of the product could rap like the pros when in fact they are just featured by the pros) freestyle he did with De La Soul on their AOI: Mosaic Thump album.

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