It’s been reported that Malik Isaac Taylor aka Phife Dawg – one of the founding members of A Tribe Called Quest – passed away March 23, 2016. Phife Dawg, affectionately known as “Phifer,” had been battling health issues stemming from living with Type 1 Diabetes.
A Tribe Called Quest celebrated the 25th anniversary of their 1990 first released album People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm, by releasing a re-mastered version and performing live on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon together for the first time since 2013. The remastered album incorporates some artists that were influenced by ATCQ, with a remixes of “Bonita Applebum” by Pharrell and “Can I Kick It?” by J. Cole. A Tribe Called Quest was more than a hip-hop group, they were a musical movement. Let’s explore the historical significance the group has made on music.
A Tribe (people: linked by, united by) Called Quest consisted of four individuals from Queens, N.Y. Phife Dawg, an avid sports fan, the master lyricist with a small frame, and a big voice. Q-Tip, an astute music fan whose album-hunting hobby made him a vinyl musician and producer. Ali Shaheed Muhammad, the “DJ,” producer, mixologist, and calming peace, Jarobi, a rapper, but more importantly, the spirit of the group. Four very different men bound by hip-hop.
They were musicians without traditional instruments. Q-Tip mastered loops of rhythms/sounds using drum beats of jazz musicians and operatic notes from people like Minnie Riperton to create the back drop music for, at the time, an unconventional style of flow. They were structured by legends to become legends. The Jungle Brothers allowed Q-Tip to shine through them, then connected A Tribe Called Quest to their uncle, DJ Red Alert, who exposed them to the airwaves. Daring to do what had not yet been done artistically, they broke the norm and creatively paid homage to music that may not have been popular to that generation.
A Tribe Called Quest (the search for) were Neo-Soul before there was such a genre. Their mix of soul, funk, boogie, and jazz, along with their Afrocentric look, inspired a new trend and creativity in rappers such as Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Common, Pharrell, and legendary band The Roots. Their hit singles “Can I Kick It?” and “Bonita Applebum” have been sampled over 30 times by rappers/music groups such as, The Fugees, Jay Z, B.o.B, Total, and Yo-Yo, to name a few. Understanding that music wasn’t meant to be one thing, they presented a place where R&B and hip-hop would not be segregated.
A Tribe Called Quest is a collective effort that understands the importance of their combined unity, as well as respects each other’s individual endeavors. They have done what is almost unheard of and that is no matter what, either perform as an original unit, or not at all. One band, one sound. The music business put food on their table, but the MUSIC feeds their souls, which made them great.
Check out the video below of the 25th anniversary of People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm with Phife performing live, plus a special mix below.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty