Phife: The Dedication
WRITTEN BY TAYO ADEBOYE
Tribesmen one and all. March 22nd marks one the most blessed and tragic days in hip hop history. Today marks the one year anniversary of the passing of our brother and one of the most influential voices in the history of hip hop; Malik Isaac Taylor. More commonly known as Phife Dawg, Malik was one quarter of arguably the greatest rap groups of all time; A Tribe Called Quest. The tribe consisting of Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Mohammed, Phife, and sometimes Jarobi paved the way for alternative hip hop with their oh so addictive beats and eclectic vocals, inspiring some of the greatest artists to touch a microphone such as Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and many more. Today marks the passing of our brother and tribesman passing to glory. So it’s only right we honour the phunkiest of diabetics.
The five foot assassin played a pivotal role in forming the tribe at the tender age of 15 years old. Hailing from Queens New York as stated by Malik himself, nobody expected the tribe to make the historic moves they did. Like many of us in life (myself excluded) The phifer was not perfect, as a young black high school dropout it can be argued that realistically it was unlikely that he would ever amount to anything, yet the phun sized five foot assassin obtained a masters in the art of rap and went on to school the entire world with lessons to befound in almost every lyric on every song. Releasing a total of 6 studio which contained the supple yet splendid jazz-fusion masterpieces crafted by the tribe are renowned for, as well as the poignant and versatile lyrics from phife and tip alike. It is safe to say phife left a mark on music that can never be erased.
When we remember the extra P we must also consider what music was, what music became, and where music is going. At the time of the tribe’s birth rap was hard hitting centered upon hyper masculinity social issues which are still being fought today such as racial injustice. During the era of NWA, Public enemy, Cypress Hill and more rap was loud, proud and majestically unapologetic. At time when gangster rap thrived, out of the shadows emerged a group who offered the extreme alternative, later becoming synonymous with the term ‘alternative hip-hop’ whilst many in the game focused on loud hard hitting music Phife along with his band of brothers diversified. Releasing the album ‘People’s instinctive paths and the travels of rhythm’ phife became renowned for the consciousness found in his lyrics. Offering a jovial yet unique perspective phife made it okay to discuss more than just the materialistic. Appearing on tracks not as the stereotypical dominant MC, rather as the brother from around the way attempting to find his path in life exemplified by songs such as ‘Can I Kick it’ and ‘Bonita Applebum’. Over the years phife engraved himself in hip hop history with his catchy thought provoking lyrics, some of which are arguably some of the most well known verses in rap such as ‘I like ‘em brown yellow Puerto Rican of Haitian, name is phife dawg from the zulu nation’ (Electric Relaxation if anyone was wondering) the lyrical love that was apparent on any song Malik made can never be forgotten.
To summarise Phife made it okay to be yourself, made it okay to be different. Rather than talking about all the money he may have or all the women he may have met phife understood the struggles of the everyday person and made sure you knew he was struggling with you, an example being his long time battle with diabetes for which he became known as the ‘funky diabetic’. Although I never knew him personally he was one of the greatest teachers I have ever had simply because he was himself, the below average height high school dropout became a word smith who would go on to inspire the most influential artists the next generation. Phife battled with diabetes for most of his life, this battle came to an unfortunate end on this day in 2016. Phife is survived by his mother, wife Deisha, and also his daughter Jessica who can take pride in the fact that this musical meistro has gone to glory. It is safe to say that Malik is also remembered by the millions of tribesman he has inspired as well as his brothers in arms Tip, Ali Shaheed, Jarobi and many more. Rest in perfect peace Malik, and sincerely from all of us at 14HQ. Thank you.