Phife Dawg is one of the most influential people in Hip-Hop culture.
We are not old enough to understand the full impact of A Tribe Called Quest because we are younger than the teenagers who were privileged to attend their concerts in the mid-80s and early 90s, but we do remember how it made our older brothers and sisters feel. Being born in 1985 (the group’s founding year) and raised in Queens, New York, the Alternative Rap pioneer’s music was symbolic of what it is like to be from the “suburban-hood,” or to live among thugs in houses. It was songs like ‘Check The Rime’, ‘Scenario’, and ‘Award Tour’, that I listened to often when I was growing up and are still songs that I listen to these days as an adult.
Yesterday morning when I was making my last rounds before heading to the airport, Suzi Analogue wrote to me on Facebook and told me that Phife Dawg has passed away. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or if it was real, so it took awhile to register. For as long as I could remember, he battled with diabetes and the stress of the group. On the upside, Phife no longer has to be in pain and stress over the little things in life. Thank you for your contributions to the most influential style of music in the world today, for working tirelessly, and being the best short man to do it. We love you, and we will all miss you dearly. Thank you for the timeless music, and possibly being the most lyrically gifted rapper in the Smooth Jazz Rap group, and from Queens. His wit, confidence and skill will and could never go unnoticed.
Currently, I am working as a Press Coordinator for Slum Village’s Kings Court Tour (a tribute to the late, great J Dilla), and if you know anything about Tribe, Slum and J Dilla’s relationship, there’s a deep and profound link. I cannot possibly reference or do it justice any further at this time, but I am privileged and humbled to be part of the thread that makes this culture so great. Posthumously, I was given the opportunity to premiere an unreleased J Dilla record featuring his kid brother Illa J and one of his best friends, Frank Nitt, in 2012.
Finally, if you’re from Queens, and you know Kevin Livingston, give him a call or send him an email. We need a Phife Dawg Day or a street named after him, and he’s the only person I know who could get it done. How about Linden Boulevard, Kevin?!
Read A Tribe Called Quest’s official statement about Phife Dawg’s passing via this link.