Phife Dawg’s passing at the age of 45 has stunned hip-hop fans around the world. As the “everyman” of A Tribe Called Quest, the man born Malik Taylor was a fixture of 1990s hip-hop and a part of one of the genre’s most visionary groups. In tribute to Phife and the generation that he touched with ATCQ, here’s a look at ten of the videos that not only defined his persona and the the group; but also a large segment of what hip-hop meant to the Yo! MTV Raps generation. (Apologies to “Check the Rhime” fans–the video is a little hard to come by these days.)
An iconic posse cut that featured an equally-memorable video, “Scenario” is one of Tribe’s finest moments and, via his guest appearance as a member of Leaders of the New School, a breakout moment for Busta Rhymes. The Native Tonguers rap from inside a computer program in a video that features everybody from Spike Lee to Brand Nubian to Redman.
“Award Tour” (1993)
Another classic clip that features Tribe and their buddies De La Soul rhyming–this time framed inside a portrait; it became an MTV fixture in late 1993, helping to make the single Tribe’s biggest crossover hit.
“Jazz (We’ve Got)” (1991)
A video that perfectly captured the two sides of A Tribe Called Quest’s early persona; the “artsy” is most prominent in the black-and-white, urban aesthetic of the first half; while the madcap technicolor cartoonishness of the ‘Buggin’ Out’ coda adds some levity and goofiness. Quintessential ATCQ.
“Oh My God” (1994)
Busta Rhymes shows up for the infectious hook and a memorable cameo in a video that captures the fun and enthusiasm of the group, as they chase a truck through Queens for the entirety of the clip. A funny and sincere love letter to neighborhoods.
“Find A Way” (1998)
A bittersweet but fun summertime clip that turned out to be the final video from the group, this is the group at their most mature but still having a good time. It’s a simple premise that captures the lighthearted rakishness that Tribe could still deliver even as their union was falling apart.
“I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” (1990)
For many, this was their first introduction to the quirky kids from Queens. Q-Tip tells the bizarre tale of a road trip gone awry, as the (then) quartet embarks on their travels on the paths of rhythm. An offbeat way to announce a group that would go on re-shape 90s hip-hop.
“Rumble In the Jungle” (1996)
A woefully underrated track that accompanied the acclaimed Muhammad Ali documentary When We Were Kings, the video features two of the 90s most visionary acts in the Fugees and ATCQ spitting verses in a boxing ring alongside Busta Rhymes and John Forte. A track that gets far too little spin and a video that captured a major moment in hip-hop.
“1nce Again” (1996)
Recalling their classic clip for “Check the Rhime,” the video for this hit 1996 single featured the Native Tongues running around like the old days, ducking around the famed St. Albans laundromat/dry cleaners they’d featured in the “…Rhime” video of five years earlier.
‘Hot Sex’ (1993)
The backstory for this video, which accompanied Tribe’s single from the Boomerang soundtrack, makes it an always-memorable clip for Tribe fans. Q-Tip’s odd ski mask was apparently the result of a fight he’d gotten into with Wreckx N Effect. You know–the “Rumpshaker” guys.
One of Tribe’s most definitive songs and one of their most definitive clips. The guys spit rhymes as they engage in every day NYC activities like cab rides and meeting up at a diner. Perfect in it’s simplicity and a natural depiction of the laid-back vibe the group channeled so effortlessly.