On Saturday, November 19th, 2016, the corner of 192nd St and Linden Blvd in St. Albans, Queens, NY was dedicated as Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Way in memory of the member of rap group A Tribe Called Quest who died in March of 2016 as a result of complications from diabetes.
A Tribe Called Quest, along with fellow Native Tongue collective members De La Soul and The Jungle Brothers helped pioneer a style of hip hop music that provided balanced juxtaposition to the harder, grittier Gangsta rap that came into vogue in the late 80s and early 90s. Tribe’s music was poetic, intelligent and progressive with innovative funkier, jazz-influenced beats. Their influence can be traced all the way to present day hip hop with artists like J. Cole and Kanye West owing credit to the sound they pioneered.
Phife who was also known as the “Five-Foot Assassin” and “The Five-Footer”, because he stood at 5 feet 3 inches. He met the other group member Q-TIp early in life through attending the same church and later met other members Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhamed entering into high school. They began making music as a group shortly thereafter and in 1989, through connections with De La Soul and Jungle Brothers, signed a demo deal with Jive Records. Their first demo included the tracks “Description of a Fool” and “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo”. This was followed by their debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm which included classic tracks like “Can I Kick It?” and “Bonita Applebum”.
Over the next decade, the group released four more albums (The Low End Theory (1991), Midnight Marauders (1993), Beats, Rhymes and Life (1996), The Love Movement (1998) ) continuing to push the envelop of incorporating different styles and genres into their production and never conforming to anyone one sound while maintaining a consistency that made them a widely acclaimed act amongst critics and peers alike.
The group broke up in 1998 but reunited first in 2004 and then set out on a reunion tour in 2006. Over the following years, they played a handful of festival shows including co-headlining the Rock The Bells hip hop festival. After performing on the Jimmy Fallon show in 2015, the group set out to record another album. While involved in the process of recording this album, Phife Dawg, who had been battling sickness from diabetes for a long time, died on March 22nd. Although unfinished, the group continued to work towards completing the album and on November 11th, they released We Got It From Here…Thank You For Your Service. The album included guest appearances from André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, Elton John, Kanye West, Anderson Paak, Talib Kweli, and frequent collaborators Consequence and Busta Rhymes.
By Liam Baum
Check out their last album which features all members of the group on Spotify (below).
We Got It From Here…..Thank You For Your Service