The music world was shaken Wednesday morning by the unexpected news of Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor’s death at the age of 45. As the hip-hop community woke to a world without the beloved Tribe Called Quest rapper, many of those inspired by the rapper and ATCQ turned to social media to pay tribute to the late Five Foot Assassin.
Questlove remembered Phife Dawg with an anecdote on Instagram where the Roots drummer reminisced about visiting Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter in college in 1991, buying A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory on the way and listening to the album in the dorm room. It was in that moment that Questlove decided to pursue a career in hip-hop.
“The look on our faces when we 1st heard ‘Buggin Out’ was prolly Me & Tariq’s greatest ‘rewind selector!’ moment in our friendship. (Back then every MC’s goal was to have that ‘rewind!!!’ moment. As in to say something so incredible. Or to catch you by surprise that it makes you go ‘DAAAAAYUM!!!’ & you listen over & over—Malik ‘Phife’ Taylor’s verse was such a gauntlet/flag planting moment in hip hop,” Questlove wrote. “Every hip hop head was just…stunned HE. CAME. FOR. BLOOD & was taking NO prisoners on this album (or ever again) we just kept looking at the speaker on some disbelief old timey radio Suspense episode. & also at each other ‘Phife is KILLIN!’–by the time we got to ‘Scenario’ I swear to god THAT was the moment I knew I wanted to make THIS type of music when I grew up–(yeah yeah dad I know: ‘go to Juilliard or Curtis to make a nice living at ‘real music’) but he didn’t know that Phife & his crew already wrote my destiny. I ain’t look back since. THANK YOU PHIFE!”
Public Enemy’s Chuck D tweeted, “Phife-HipHop & Rap word Warrior, simple as that. Breathed it & lined rhyme into Sport. A true fire Social Narrator my bro #RIBeats ATCQforever,” Chuck D also posted a mural of Phife Dawg.
Rest In Beats PHIFE ATCQ Forever pic.twitter.com/jwYNU6YLJ8
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) March 23, 2016
Chris Rock was among the legion of ATCQ fans to share their favorite Phife lines. “I like [’em] brown, yellow Puerto Rican or Haitian / name is phife dog from the Zulu nation. Rip Phife,” Rock wrote. “When was the last time ya heard the Phifer sloppy… Lyrics anonymous ya never hear me copy,” Beats 1 DJ Ebro Darden tweeted, quoting the rapper. “… Never had a cavity.. Got more rhymes than the Winans got family…”
“Rest in peace to the incredible Phife Dawg,” El-P tweeted, while Just Blaze was hit hard with the news, writing of Phife’s death, “Refuse to believe this.” Mark Ronson added, “Phife Dawg made some of the most beloved hip hop ever. It’s so sad that he’s gone. I’d have gone to every reunion show till the end of time.”
Artists outside the hip-hop community also remembered the influential rapper. “#RIPPhife,” tweeted Jenny Lewis, a sentiment that was echoed by Best Coast, Flying Lotus and Sean Lennon, who posted a photo of his Phife-tagged Mellotron:
Phife forever 1970-2016. 1991 in Sept I went to visit Tariq at Millersville U in the middle of PA (Lancaster). Miles Davis had just passed & I went on a binge to study his post jazz works. Went to Sound Of Market to purchase Nefertiti, In A Silent Way & Live Evil—the only non jazz purchase I made that day ironically was the most jazziest album in that collection: #TheLowEndTheory by @ATCQ. —it was raining that day so somehow the 1…2 punch of “Nefertiti”/”Fall” just had me in a trance that train trip—even though I suspected there was a possibility that Tribe could possibly have made a better album then their debut (the perfect @@@@@ mic Source rating would be on stands in a week so I was right)—but I knew I wanted to save that listening for when I got up to the campus w Riq.—so some 90mins later when I get to his dorm–we ripped that bad boy open (I can’t describe the frustration that was CD packaging in 1991, just imagine the anger that environmentalists feel when all that paper packaging in Beats headphone gets wasted—it’s like that)—the sign of a true classic is when a life memory is burnt in your head because of the first time you hear a song. —Riq & I had this moment a few times, but the look on our faces when we 1st heard “Buggin Out” was prolly Me & Tariq’s greatest “rewind selector!” moment in our friendship. (Back then every MC’s goal was to have that “rewind!!!” moment. As in to say something so incredible. Or to catch you by surprise that it makes you go “DAAAAAYUM!!!”& you listen over & over—Malik “Phife” Taylor’s verse was such a gauntlet/flag planting moment in hip hop. Every hip hop head was just…stunned HE. CAME. FOR. BLOOD & was taking NO prisoners on this album (or ever again) we just kept looking at the speaker on some disbelief old timey radio Suspense episode. & also at each other “Phife is KILLIN!”–by the time we got to “Scenario” I swear to god THAT was the moment I knew I wanted to make THIS type of music when I grew up–(yeah yeah dad I know: “go to Juilliard or Curtis to make a nice living at “real music”) but he didn’t know that Phife & his crew already wrote my destiny. I ain’t look back since. THANK YOU PHIFE!