Good lyricists are few and far in between. I couldn't let the morning pass without acknowledging the life, contribution to hip hop and untimely death of Malik "Phife Dawg" Taylor. I woke up to an email from my brother with a Rolling Stone article link. I blinked and squinted before I opened the link. Was I reading it right? Phife Dawg dead at 45?
A Tribe Called Quest's (ATCQ) beats and lyrics were the soundtrack of the 90s. Well, it was the soundtrack of my 90s. Too many times I got ready for my day at Watkins Mill High School while listening to "Butter," "Luck of Lucien," "Lyrics to Go," "Check the Rhyme," "Midnight," "We Can Get Down," and "Footprints." It was jazz, with a kick, snare and Bob Powers' magic. It was the way Phife begged for women to respect themselves and remain individuals:
You looked in the mirror, didn't know what to do
Yesterday your eyes were brown but today they are blue
Your whole appearance is a lie and it could never be true
And if you really loved yourself then you would try and be you
If your hair and eyes were real, I wouldn't have dissed ya
But since it was bought, I had to dismiss ya
Good parameters for a girl growing up in the 80s and 90s. Phife brought the fun and wit to hip hop and he was the king of double entendre. Tribe's contribution to hip-hop is respected and celebrated now in the 2010s. But we knew we had something special in the 90s. We knew Tip and Phife brought their own originality to the group. We looked on as ATCQ broke up the way you look on at a family reunion when your two uncles start an argument that started out as a joke. We knew Phife had some health challenges and we smiled just to see him on stage at the 2012 BET Awards. It's 2016 now and I can't name someone with a cadence and lyrically ability to match him.
Let's appreciate his skill, his contribution to American music and the way he kicked a door down with Ali Shaheed, Jarobi and Tip in the 1990s.
Rest in peace, Mr. Taylor. You have been, and you will be, missed for many more years to come.