One of the greatest MC's and one of the founding members of what is considered to be one of the greatest and most influential Hip-Hop groups of all time, "A Tribe Called Quest". He was born in Queens, New York as, "Malik Taylor" but was later known to most as, "Phife Dawg". Aside from his unparalleled flow and the classic verses he would bless us with on many of ATCQ's albums, he is also known as the, "5 Foot Assassin" for his lyrical mastery combined with his relatively short physical stature. Phife was born on November 20th, 1970 in Queens, New York where he would meet his childhood friend and future group-mate, the great MC and producer, "Q-Tip". Phife will forever be known as the perfect counterpart to Q-Tip's smooth and laid back style with his uniquely smooth and aggressive flow.
Phife Dawg is without a doubt the lyrical anchor on ATCQ's first three albums (which are still considered to be 3 of Hip-Hop's landmark albums) and would begin his dominance on the mic when he was just 19 years old by slaying his verse on the classic ATCQ song, "Can I Kick It" off their debut album, "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm" (1990). "Q-Tip","Jarobi", "Producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad" & Phife Dawg would once again deliver a classic album in 1991 with the project, "Low End Theory" that is still considered to be the benchmark for Hip-Hop albums today with its masterful use of combining the sound of Jazz music & Hip-Hop music together. The album holstered extraordinary songs that displayed how unbelievably sharp Phife's lyrical sword was in tracks such as, "Bugging Out", "Check The Rime", "Scenario" and "Jazz (We've Got)" that has Phife stealing the show lyrically once again. "Midnight Marauders" would be the groups third album and would go on to be considered as one of the best Hip-Hop albums of all time (1993.) This album would spawn instant anthems with the staple Hip-Hop songs, "Award Tour" & "Electric Relaxation". Phife's verses on both of the albums spawned lyrics over a funky beat that are still recited and quoted religiously amongst anyone who considers themselves an ATCQ fan.
Although, the group's next album would not measure up collectively to their previous 3 albums, "Beat's, Rhymes & Life" (1996) would impressively usher in a fresh aggressively dark sound that was sharply co-produced by the legendary Detroit producer J.Dilla. The album bolstered a side of ATCQ that was not recognizable to fans as ATCQ took shots at wack rappers at the time with the track, "Phony Rappers". While "Keep It Moving" aimed to squash the West Coast vs. East Coast beef during that time. Phife would move to Atlanta after the release of their third album due to conflicts within the group and this was very apparent due to the lyrics spoken by Q-Tip on the album. This is illustrated on the chilling track, "Crew" that has Q-Tip showcasing his silky smooth flow by illustrating a story that is about him questioning the loyalty of one of his group-mates. Tensions and conflicts would continue to grow within the group and thus this caused them to split up after the release of their fifth and final official album together, "The Love Movement" (1998). Although the album spawned the hit singles, "Find A Way" & "Like It Like That", the standout track for Phife on this project is the overlooked gem, "His Name Is Mutty Ranks".
Unfortunately for us all, Phife would continue to battle longtime issues with diabetes after the release of ATCQ's final two albums. In the ATCQ documentary released in 2011, "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest" Phife states, "Even though I knew I had diabetes, I had to have my sugar." On March 22nd, 2016 he would pass away due to complications from diabetes. The world of Hip-Hop has shown tremendous respect and is paying homage to the legendary MC in anyway they can. ATCQ released a statement about his death here that states Phife's family is overwhelmed with the support and will continue to celebrate his legacy.
We encourage you to check out this song that the 5 Foot Assassin dedicated to the great J.Dilla in 2005 and to also check out his contributions to one of the greatest Hip-Hop groups of all time below.
Rest In Peace Phife Dawg.