Today, the music industry and hip-hop fans around the world mourn the loss of A Tribe Called Quest founding member Malik Taylor (a.k.a. Phife Dawg). The Queens, New York native died on Wednesday after a longtime battle with diabetes.
Even if you’re too young to have grown up with the music of A Tribe Called Quest, you’ve felt their impact. They’re your favorite rapper’s favorite rap group.
Since their inception in 1988, ATCQ has influenced an entire generation of artists with their infectious jazz-infused hip-hop, including OutKast, Kanye West, Common, Pharrell Williams, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, among others. The power behind their unique sound is undeniable.
Kendrick paid tribute to Phife during his show in Australia when the news broke Wednesday morning, while other celebrities are honoring the “five-foot assassin’s” life and lyricism on social media. Below are just a few heartfelt reactions.
Phife forever 1970-2016. 1991 in Sept I went to visit Tariq at Millersville U in the middle of PA (Lancaster). Miles Davis had just passed & I went on a binge to study his post jazz works. Went to Sound Of Market to purchase Nefertiti, In A Silent Way & Live Evil—the only non jazz purchase I made that day ironically was the most jazziest album in that collection: #TheLowEndTheory by @ATCQ. —it was raining that day so somehow the 1…2 punch of "Nefertiti"/"Fall" just had me in a trance that train trip—even though I suspected there was a possibility that Tribe could possibly have made a better album then their debut (the perfect @@@@@ mic Source rating would be on stands in a week so I was right)—but I knew I wanted to save that listening for when I got up to the campus w Riq.—so some 90mins later when I get to his dorm–we ripped that bad boy open (I can't describe the frustration that was CD packaging in 1991, just imagine the anger that environmentalists feel when all that paper packaging in Beats headphone gets wasted—it's like that)—the sign of a true classic is when a life memory is burnt in your head because of the first time you hear a song. —Riq & I had this moment a few times, but the look on our faces when we 1st heard "Buggin Out" was prolly Me & Tariq's greatest "rewind selector!" moment in our friendship. (Back then every MC's goal was to have that "rewind!!!" moment. As in to say something so incredible. Or to catch you by surprise that it makes you go "DAAAAAYUM!!!"& you listen over & over—Malik "Phife" Taylor's verse was such a gauntlet/flag planting moment in hip hop. Every hip hop head was just…stunned HE. CAME. FOR. BLOOD & was taking NO prisoners on this album (or ever again) we just kept looking at the speaker on some disbelief old timey radio Suspense episode. & also at each other "Phife is KILLIN!"–by the time we got to "Scenario" I swear to god THAT was the moment I knew I wanted to make THIS type of music when I grew up–(yeah yeah dad I know: "go to Juilliard or Curtis to make a nice living at "real music") but he didn't know that Phife & his crew already wrote my destiny. I ain't look back since. THANK YOU PHIFE!
Phife gave us permission to “kick it” and paved the way for unapologetic expression in hip-hop. To honor his impact on hip-hop and music in general, we’re reminiscing on a few of his most memorable lyrics that encompass just how dope of an MC he was. His words live on forever.
- “Can I kick it? To my Tribe that flows in layers/Right now, Phife is a poem sayer.”Al Pereira via Getty Images
- “By the way, my name’s Malik, The Five-Foot Freak/Let’s say we get together by the end of the week.”
- “I’m labeled as the cat’s meow, the MC with the know-how/Act like you know, not now but right now.”Tim Mosenfelder via Getty Images
- “I float like gravity, never had a cavity/Got more rhymes than the Winans got family.”
- “Talk a lot of trash but no one can seem to beat it/ Pull out your microphone and watch the Phifer make you eat it.”Jeff Kravitz via Getty Images
- “Hair is crazy curly, flip like Mr. Furley/ To this day I still believe that no MC can serve me.”Jeff Kravitz via Getty Images
- “Ego. I’m on my own jock skill/Cuz if I don’t say I’m the best, tell me who the hell will.”J. Shearer via Getty Images
- “I like em brown, yellow, Puero Rican or Hatian/Name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation.”
- “MCs like to meddle, but here’s my proposition/I let my lyrics flow, and juxt your whole position.”Jeff Kravitz via Getty Images
- “Put one up for the Phifer, it’s time to decipher/The ills of the world make the situation lighter.”Michael Loccisano via Getty Images
- [Q-Tip]: “You on point, Phife?” [Phife Dawg]: “All the time, Tip.”Steve Eichner via Getty Images
- Now heres a funky introduction of how nice I am/Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram/ Im like an energizer cause, you see, I last long/ My crew is never ever whack because we stand strong.Andrew H. Walker via Getty Images
Rest in power, Phife.
Tell us what Phife Dawg lyrics you’ll always remember.
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