Phife Loved Hip-Hop, But Hip-Hop Needed Him (Video)
Today (March 22) marks two years since the passing of one of Hip-Hop’s grandest luminaries, Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest. While his legacy and imprint on music is still unfolding and carving out its place within the Rap history books, his efforts on the microphone maintain their relevancy atop the ranks of celebrated lyricists.
There are certain MCs throughout Hip-Hop history that it was evident having the microphone in hand was plan A, plan B, plan C, and so on, with no alternate career blueprint sketched out. Phife Dawg, born and raised in Queens, New York, was the epitome of being committed to the craft. He once told us at Ambrosia For Heads, “If something is truly in your heart, go hard. Just go real hard. Don’t let nobody tell you that you can’t, you know what I mean? Because I’ve had a million and one people, if not more, tell me ‘you can’t, you can’t, you can’t.’ They said I wasn’t going to make it and I did. Follow your dreams. Don’t follow them 24/7, follow them 25/8.”
While somewhat bashful sans-microphone, Phife Dawg not only possessed one of the most potent and confident lyrical approaches ever seen, but it was indisputable that the mic was his salvation. On the DJ Hi-Tek-produced “Flawless” one of two singles released off of 2000’s Ventilation: DA LP. That LP included beats from J Dilla and Pete Rock, in addition to the Reflection Eternal producer. On “Flawless,” the Five Foot Assassin shares his deeply profound wedlock with music, conveying “I am Hip-Hop / I sleep Hip-Hop / I want Hip-Hop / I love Hip-Hop / I lust Hip-Hop / I need Hip-Hop.”
Forever pairing a distinctive tenacity and poise with a subtle playfulness in his raps, Phife’s contagious self-assurance was an example to his peers, fans, and all subsequent MCs that all it takes is one passion and an unshakable devotion to it, to shift history. Even posthumous, The Five Foot Freak continues to live through his music, as both his A.T.C.Q. companions and Redman recently shared their excitement for the pending release of an upcoming Phife Dawg album.
Malik Izzak Taylor may have loved, lusted, and needed Hip-Hop, but ultimately it was Hip-Hop who needed Phife Diggy tenfold and is eternally greater for his influence within it.