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New American Songbook: Remembering Phife Dawg


The recent death of Malik Taylor, known more popularly as Phife Dawg, was marked by dozens of memorials and internet eulogies from all corners of hip hop. Phife was well-known for his role as a founding member of the seminal hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, alongside rapper Q-Tip and DJ Ali Shaheed Mohammed.

Phife’s lyrics epitomize the playfulness of early-nineties New York hip hop—where Q-Tip often carried the conscious-rap banner, Phife was the prankster: funny, audacious and completely at ease behind the mic. It’s hard to find a verse that fully displays Phife’s range, but the opener from Tribe’s 1993 release ‘We Can Get Down’ comes close.

Internal tensions in A Tribe Called Quest led to the group's dissolution in the late 90s, with a subsequent reunion in 2006. Phife released a solo album in 2000. He was 45 years old when he died.