“Well whaddya know, the Di-Dawg, is first up to bat
No batteries included, and no strings attached
No holds barred, no time for move fakin
Gots to get the loot so I can bring home the bacon
Brothers front, they say the Tribe can’t flow
But we’ve been known to do the impossible like Broadway Joe so
Sleep if you want, like we’ll help you get your Z’s troop
But here’s the real scoop
I’m all that and then some, short dark and handsome
Bust a nut inside your eye, to show you where I come from
I’m vexed, fumin, I’ve had it up to here
My days of payin dues are over, acknowledge me as in there (YEAH)
Head for the border, go get a taco
I’ll be wreckin from the jump street, meaning from the get-go
Sit back relax and let yourself go
Don’t sweat what you heard, but act like you know”
With his distinctive, yet energetic flow, Malik Isaac Phife Dawg Taylor, also known as the “Five Foot Assassin” because of his 5’3 frame, made his mark as one of the best lyricists in Hip Hop. The St. Albins Queens New York pioneer made history when he, along with his his high school classmates Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and for a brief time, Jarobi White, (who left the group after their first album in 1991). merged to formed the prolific and pioneering hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest.
Phife had also performed in songs with other artists including the Fu-Schnickens’ “La Schmoove”, and Diamond D’s “Painz & Strife” along with Pete Rock. In 2000, he released his debut solo album,Ventilation: Da LP.
In addition to his music, Phife Dawg was also an avid sports fan, so much so that he had been featured on various radio shows and sports programming on ESPN. He was also a playable character in the video game NBA 2K7 and NBA 2K9.
In May 1990, Phife was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He mentioned being a “funky diabetic” in the single “Oh My God” from the group’s third album, Midnight Marauders which was actually his admittance to the chronic condition. Phife also received a kidney transplant after being on the waiting list for two years. Sadly, Phife departed this life on March 22, 2016 from complications from diabetes. He was 45.
Formed in 1985, A Tribe Called Quest, became pioneers of alternative hip hop music, helping to pave the way for many innovative artists. Along with De La Soul, the group was a central part of the Native Tongues Posse, and enjoyed the most commercial success out of all the groups to emerge from that collective. Many of their songs, such as “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo”, “Scenario”, “Bonita Applebum”, “Can I Kick It?”, “Check the Rhime”, “Jazz (We’ve Got)”, “Award Tour” and “Electric Relaxation” are bonafide classics. The group released five albums between 1990 and 1998 and disbanded in 1998. In 2006, the group reunited and toured the US.
In 2005, A Tribe Called Quest received a Special Achievement Award at the Billboard R&B Hip-Hop Awards in Atlanta. In 2007, the group was formally honored at the 4th VH1 Hip Hop Honors.
On November 13, 2015, the group reunited to perform on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Also on November 13, the group reissued their debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. The reissue includes covers from Pharrell Williams, J. Cole and Cee-Lo Green.
R.I.P Phife Dawg. You will be sincerely missed and the hip hop industry will seem empty without you.