Less than a month after his death, the family of A Tribe Called Quest co-founder Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor, has released the full version of “Nutshell,” a track the rapper teased with a snippet last year.
Produced by J. Dilla, “Nutshell” finds Phife delivering a quintessential clinic in wordplay, constructing an intricate set of verses structured around the prefixes of “un-,” “re-,” and “in-.”
“Uninterested when dealing with unoriginals unaccustomed to unproven rap flows,” he spits over a dusty Dilla boom-bap beat. “Unresponsive to unapproved stage shows / That’s unacceptable, unexciting — lazy fucker / Phife, the uncanny, uncommon rhyme spitter.”
“Nutshell” is also available to download via iTunes, with 50 percent of the proceeds benefiting the American Diabetes Association and the National Kidney Foundation (Phife died of complications from diabetes).
“Malik believed that his voice could spearhead the movement of awareness and formally educate young people about diabetes and kidney disease, so we think this is the perfect way to honor him and contribute,” the rapper’s family said in a statement.
“Nutshell” was initially slated to arrive in February as the first single off Phife Dawg’s Give Thanks EP. He was also at work on a full-length, Muttymorphosis, which he told Rolling Stone functioned as “basically my life story.” Along with the Dilla-produced “Nutshell,” Give Thanks was set to feature production form 9th Wonder, Nottz and Phife himself.
Phife and J. Dilla, in particular, share a long history: The late Detroit beat wizard produced A Tribe Called Quest’s final two albums — Beats, Rhymes and Life and The Love Movement — as part of the Ummah, his production collective with Tribe’s Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. In 2014, Phife also released the track, “Dear Dilla,” as a tribute to the producer, who died in 2006.