Remembering Phife Dawg… The Trini Gladiator, Anti-Hesitater

The world mourns the passing of the Five Foot Assassin.

  /  03.23.2016

“The key is to go out there and handle your business at all times,” said Phife Dawg to REVOLT back in October 2013 on what happened to be a bittersweet night in Brooklyn.

It was on this night, the funky foursome of Phife, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Jarobi White and Q-Tip reunited as A Tribe Called Quest, performing what was billed as their last concert as a group at BK’s Barclays Center. Despite the solemness of the evening, the legendary rap group’s legacy bursted from the speakers to the people and reiterated a line Phife would eventually mention in the same interview: “Regardless if it’s our first, our last, reunion or whatever, we gotta smash it.”

Never a half stepper, an originator behind the rhythm recipe you savor, and undisputed Five Foot Assassin, Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor was, is, and forever will be a rap superhero, who smashed almost every odds weighed against him. So it brought great sadness when the music world woke up this morning (March 23) to a reality without the ATCQ rapper. He was 45.

As told time and time again, Phife formed A Tribe Called Quest after joining Murry Bergtraum High School in the late 1980s with fellow alums Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed, and Jarobi. By 1990, the group had released their gold-selling debut People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, quickly earning praise for its jazzy instrumentation and gems like “Bonita Applebum” and “Luck of Lucien” (among a collection of others). On the former, Q-Tip stood out as the very renaissance man he would later claim on his sophomore solo album, all the while Phife played the Robin to his Batman. In about a year’s time, all of this would change, starting with 1991’s The Low End Theory and well, beyond.

Hit play on “Butter” and get a whiff of his Alexander O’Neal glow, or understand his punchline prowess on “Electric Relaxation,” with every album Phife got stronger and sharper — a testament to his will made out of teflon and rhymes harder than last night’s erection.

What The Beatles are to popular music, Tribe Called Quest is the chiseled parallel on rap’s Mount Rushmore. They left an entire world in awe and offered ultra light beams (word to Kanye) for generations who stand united in the words: “Tribe Called Quest is the reason I…” So it goes without saying what kind of gravity Phife’s loss leaves on music, which is exemplified by the many tributes that have poured from just about all walks of life — a testament to Phife and ATCQ’s influence.


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