Phife Dawg’s Spirit Stirs Touching Words from André 3000, Kanye West, KRS-One & More (Video)
Last night (April 5), the iconic Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York City had much of the music world’s attention, but for a somber reason. In his hometown, Phife Dawg was honored by family, friends, and fellow Hip-Hop icons in what is perhaps the most memorable event of its kind in a generation. André 3000, Busta Rhymes, Chuck D, Consequence, KRS-One, Michael Rapaport, Pete Rock, Kanye West, all spoke. Performances by the Roots and Angela Winbush brought a musical element to the tribute, with Black Thought reciting verses based on Phife’s iconic lyrics. A repeat performance by the Roots – this time featuring none other than D’Angelo – was undoubtedly a moment that viewers will not soon forget, as a soulful rendition of James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” enveloped the venue in song. Quiet yet no less poignant touches came in the form of a shot of Busta holding Q-Tip’s hand in consolation, shout-outs to Phife’s wife Deisha, and countless other mini-moments that together make this a must-watch for lovers of Hip-Hop.
Notable moments came in the form of speeches by Kanye West, who told the crowd “Low End Theory was the first album I ever bought…I had to go to detention and I enjoyed it, cause I had that Tribe tape,” he begins. “It made that walk to study hall so short. It meant everything. It is everything. Music was stolen from us, and corporatized, and anybody who spoke up was demonized. Anything I ever did wrong, blame Tip and Phife, ’cause y’all raised me…Tribe made it okay to be me. Made it so I could dress funny…” he continues, trailing off in a moment of tearful reflection. He nearly breaks down completely before saying “honor that work, that influence, that ability to put that rap together. Honor that.”
Shortly thereafter, KRS-One was seen stepping to the stage with a standing ovation from an adoring crowd. He introduced to the stage Kid Capri and Grandmaster Flash, who said a few words of his own. “I will say this, Q-Tip, Tribe Called Quest – you guys had a sound…when you put on a Tribe Called Quest record?,” he says, allowing a moment for the crowd to holler and laugh in response. “Thank you, Phife. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you Tribe Called Quest.” The Teacha then returns to the mic, sharing anecdotes about his first time hearing ATCQ and his own powerful eulogy for his friend, but the highlight was his performance of one of Phife Dawg’s favorite cuts, “I’m Still #1.”
André 3000 also made an incredibly moving speech, with remarks that included his feeling that without ATCQ, “Outkast would not be Outkast.” He takes the crowd back to the day when he went by his first rap name Jahz, which he says is “because of these niggas,” referring to ATCQ’s influence. He went on to unveil the news that a year or two, Outkast and Tribe were in talks to do a collaborative album, but that it regrettably never went down. “Please people, do not let the time go by. This is now one of the biggest things I regret,” he shared.
In closing, none other than Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Jarobi, and Q-Tip take the stage, and paraphrasing simply doesn’t do their words justice.
Other contributors included his cousin Michael Clemens, basketball player and MC Nick Grant, Peter Rosenberg, ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, and more. The ceremony in its entirety is available for streaming thanks to Revolt TV.
Rhyme in power, Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor.