Chinedu Achebe: A Tribute to Phife Dawg

“I never let a statue tell me how nice I am.” This is an iconic verse from A Tribe Called Quest’s classic song, Award Tour from their 1993 album, Midnight Marauders. The lyrical genius who penned that line, Phife Dawg a.k.a Malik Taylor passed away on March 23rd at the age of 45 from his battle with diabetes. The music industry that A Tribe Called Quest entered in 1991 isn’t the one that exists in 2016.

Back then they were only 2 years removed from Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff being given the first rap Grammy award for their song, Parent’s Just Don’t Understand in 1989. Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff boycotted the Grammys because they couldn’t receive their awards on television.

I remember as a young kid the only time you could watch hip hop was on YO MTV RAPS on Friday nights and MTV Jams for about an hour a day during the week. I forgot to add that most radio stations didn’t even play hip hop at all. Even black radio stations wouldn’t play it until the evening time for about 3 hours or so. Phife, Q-Tip, and their Dj, Ali Shaheed, brought a fun and thought provoking style to hip hop. They along with another group, De La Soul, were known as the hip hop hippies. They didn’t wear the big gold chains and brag about material wealth they way other rappers of that era were doing. But they could still hold their own lyrically with rappers like LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, and other big names from that time, which is known as the Golden Age of Hip Hop. It was a period from 1988-1994 were being a great lyricist was a big deal and there was still some levels of purity in the music.

After that time, hip hop went commercial with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and later, Biggie and Tupac Shakur changing the vibe of the music. Even though Tribe’s songs like Bonita Applebum, Can I Kick It, Electric Relaxation, and Hot Sex, were mainstream hits, people were gravitating to more hardcore rap music. Once the group split up in 1998, Q-tip went on to his solo career. Because of his successful solo endeavor, a lot of people only remember Q-tip and at times dismiss the contribution that Phife Dawg brought to A Tribe Called Quest.

Sadly in death, Phife is getting a lot of the credit and adulation that cheated him during his life. Rest in power, my brother. Your sound and influence will be missed. “I like’em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian, Name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation.”

Watch the video for Electric Relaxation by A Tribe Called Quest

Photo Credit: Getty Images

5 Comments on Chinedu Achebe: A Tribute to Phife Dawg
  • Jagbajantis March 30, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    Dude!! You are the man for writing this dedication. As a fan myself of Golden Era hiphop, I can also say Phife Dawg’s passing hit hard. Though it was clear to see that he was ill and not himself when I saw that ATCQ documentary “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest” released a few years ago.

    Q-Tip got most of the shine, as he went on to have a solo career with the release of Anthology in 1998 (that spurned the hits “Vivrant Thing” and “Breathe and Stop”) and also crossed over briefly into movies, appearing with Janet Jackson and 2Pac in “Poetic Justice” though it was a waka pass role.

    I think Q-Tip also dated Angie Martinez sometime in the 90s which also helped with his profile and marketability. Hiphop heads know who she is.

    The ying and yang him and Tip brought to classic songs like “Electric Relaxation”, “Lyrics 2 Go’ and “Check the Rhyme” was what made ATCQ. They offered an alternative kind of music, with jazz undertones produced by Alishaheed and the Native Tongues influence of neo-black subjects like negro empowerment, education, saying no to the proliferation of drugs and gun violence in urban communities etc.

    However Phife was a prolific lyricist in his own right. On “Check the Rhyme”, he spit :

    Now here’s a funky introduction of how nice I am/
    Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram/
    I’m like an energizer ’cause, you see, I last long/
    My crew is never ever wack because we stand strong/
    Now if you say my style is wack that’s where you’re dead wrong/

    Midnight Marauders is still one of my top 10 hip-hop albums to date.

    Rest in peace Phife Dawg aka “Five Footer”. Your legacy lives on.

    • Tosin April 1, 2016 at 1:40 am

      yin and yang
      (just in case someone could use the info)

  • lifeisbeautiful March 30, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Thanks Phife Dawg! For the good years when music was really music and hip hop was really hip hop. Many readers on here may or (may not) have heard of Tribe, especially if you grew up in the 90s or in the U. This band really made me appreciate hip hop at a young age and Phife Dawg was at the center of genre then.
    Rest in Peace man , may God grant u peace and mercy.

  • kome March 30, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Phife Footer. Keep d tributes coming for real. “Bust a Nut inside ur Eye to show you where I come from” Rest in Power.

  • Braun March 31, 2016 at 3:44 am

    I feel so humbled reading this… I can’t remember the last time I felt this way, seems like I’m in the gathering of ol’ wise men…The Real Gees. Was but a child when ATCQ was at their peak, however, grew old enough soon afterwards to feel the undiluted feel of Hip Hop. Listening to the lyrics alone engages, and expands your intellect, and soaking yourself in the rhythm of the beats takes you into a different kind of bliss…pure Esctasy. I just weep and bleed for the ‘indomie’ Hip Hop in play today. Hip Hop is dead truly

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