Today, Nov. 20th marks the birthday of A Tribe Called Quest’s funkiest lyricist, Phife Dawg. The 5-foot assassin would have turned 47 years old today. In March 2016, Phife Dawg passed away from complications deriving from diabetes.
“When’s the last time you heard a funky diabetic?”
The swift flow and eloquent lyrics of Malik Izaak Taylor lifted the efforts of A Tribe Called Quest to the first-class status in the matter of classic hip-hop.
“I like ’em brown, yellow,
Puerto Rican or Haitian
Name is Phife Dawg
From the Zulu Nation”
Phife’s journey into the tribe began at the early age of two when he met his fellow in beats and rhymes, Q-Tip in their hometown neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens. They both attended the same school and played little league baseball, which explains the funky emcee’s everlasting love for sports.
“Yo, microphone check one, two, what is this?
The five foot assassin with the roughneck business”
The five-foot assassin’s sharp sound and short frame contributed to A Tribe Called Quest’s witty level of appeal. Hip-hop heads were drawn up by his ability to balance out the complex spits of Q-Tip, sending ATCQ into the waves of being generally relatable.
“Let me hit it from the back,
girl I won’t catch a hernia
Bust off on your couch, now
you got Seaman’s Furniture”
Primarily, during the course of Tribe’s reign in the early 90s with the release of three classic albums (People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm 1990, The Low End Theory 1991, Midnight Marauders 1993), Phife’s presence as the jocular emcee ingrained his status in the culture.
The five-footer was an emcee who embedded his personal attributes into his lyrics. The legacy of Phife’s Dawg’s signature expression is the home of hip-hop’s most memorable taglines and distinguished deliveries.