Words by Ben Freeman.
A pioneer, a legend, an avant garde that helped to revolutionize hip-hop. What else can be said of the five foot assassin? Without him and the other members of A Tribe Called Quest, the hip-hop golden era would be unrecognisable in comparison to the way it is looked back upon today.
Pusha T, ‘Ye, The Roots, Andre 3stacks, Pharell & Common. This is just a sample of the interminable list of artists who, without the influence of Phife and ATCQ, the world would be starved of. All of these names have listed ATCQ as one of their main inspirations. “When I felt like I was at my highest level was when I was closest to a Tribe record.” Claims Kanye. “(Phife) is the sporty guy that appealed to the street, the corner, the guy on the block,” explains Pharell. The eternal influence of the legacy of Phife dawg is indescribable.
But why exactly are A Tribe Called Quest so influential? To me, it’s the funky fresh aura that seemed to follow them every step of their journey. As a hip-hop fan amongst a group of Grime fans within my friendship group, my music is often met with stubbornness and animosity; but when A Tribe Called Quest begin to play, that is all forgotten – the musical hostility is no more. When Q-Tip’s jazzy exclamation “you on point Phife?!” is heard, everyone knows the next line – no matter of genre loyalty or allegiance. I feel like this is the legacy that will be left behind: ATCQ will be remembered as the collective that bridged the gap between Jazzy, easy listening music and pure hiphop. Whilst doing this, they mastered both genres flawlessly.
Although his most productive years as an artist preceeded my birth, what he created would have immediate ripple effects that would remain crystal clear, even through the course of my life. The effects and influence Phife Dawg had on music will be remembered posthumously. He left behind him a legacy that is cast in stone.
If I can close with one thought, it’s the unfortunate bombshell that Phife Dawg was one in a million. ATCQ were one in a trillion. What I’m trying to say is that it will be a long wait before we ever see anything like them again – and that’s a hard pill to swallow. The five-footer was effervescent, enthusiastic and liberating and will forever be remembered for his rhythmic prowess and uniqueness – after all, when was the last time you heard a funky diabetic?
R.I.P Phife Dawg.