…here’s a funky introduction to how nice I am. Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram…
Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor – 20th November 1970 – 22nd March 2016
It was such sad news to hear that Phife Dawg died aged just 45 years of age, following a long struggle with type 1 diabetes. That audacious Lou Reed sample on Can I Kick It? kick-started my life-long love affair with hip hop. His distinctive flow and sharp wit helped to make ATCQ one of the undisputed masters of hip hop. He met Q-Tip in Queens aged just 2 years old, and the first two albums are full of the kind of infectious energy generated when good friends riff off each other’s wit. The 2011 documentary, Beats Rhymes and Life, is essential viewing for any fan but it’s shot through with sadness as we see how the pressures of success and Phife’s poor health took their toll on the band. Better to remember his talent and give thanks for the many musical memories he left.
Of course Phife’s legacy will be inextricably intertwined with ATCQ. That was the band that took him to the kind of international fame that surpassed any expectations he might have had when he was skipping out of his seventh-day Adventist Grandmother’s house to hang out at block parties. As he told Rolling Stone in November 2015: “I never expected it to be this big. I just thought we were going to be celebs in the hood.” Far from it, ATCQ ensured that hip hop had a place in homes and hearts across the globe.
It would be a shame, though, if people forgot his solo work, meagre as the catalogue is. Health problems prevented more than one solo album and a handful of guest spots, but many of those tracks deserve their place in any collection, so there’s a few of my favourites here.
“On point Phife?”
“All the time Tip”
Thank you for the beats and the rhymes. Rest in peace.
ATCQ – Bugging Out
Yo’ microphone check one two, what is this?
Al Jarreau feat Phife – In My Music
This be history you know. So act like you know
Slum Village ft Phife Dawg – Push it along
Trash rhymers back off, your mic’s gettin’ cut off
Phife Dawg – Flawless
Now tell me what you rhyming for? This shit is all about flow fuck a fashion show
Phife Dawg – Dear Dilla
Hold tight, this ain’t the last time I see you