Hip hop awoke with a heavy heart earlier this morning, as one of their beloved icons, Phife Dawg, reportedly passed away. While details of his sudden death are still unknown, many hip hop artists and influencers have spoken out about his legacy, wishing him well after suffering from many health issues. Phife was a key member of the pioneer hip hop group, A Tribe Called Quest, and contributed a unique cadence, swag, and rhyming ability to the culture for almost three decades before his passing. Today, we honor him by looking back at his life and legacy.
Read more on Phife Dawg’s legacy on the following pages.
A Tribe Called Quest era
Phife Dawg, Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi came together to form the highly influential hip hop group, A Tribe Called Quest that was formed in 1985. The group released their debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, in 1990, with Phife increasing his contributions to the group’s sound and swag. He took on multiple nicknames that stemmed from his passion for rapping about social issues including “The Five Foot Assassin.” Over time, the group eventually disbanded after their last album in 1998, The Love Movement, as a result of disagreements amongst members. Phife and Q-Tip had a falling out that was carried into the group’s reunion at a performance in 2008. The group eventually reunited again, with both Tip and Phife, this past year, for the 25th anniversary of their debut album.
His rhyming ability
Phife Dawg’s rhyming ability set him apart from a lot of MC’s back in the days, and is considered one of the pioneers of transitioning rap from the 80’s sound into the nitty and grittier 90’s sound everyone came to hear. He was also labeled as having a “self-deprecating swagger.” His rhymes and sound helped the “macho posturing” hip hop culture in the golden era. Being that the group was known for infusing jazz into their production, it set up a unique way of them to discuss political and social issues on top of being dope Mc’s. Phife carried different nicknames with him throughout his career, including “The Funky Diabetic,” “The Five Footer” and more.