KUrated. Phife Dawg.
About the series...
KUrated is an invite-only opportunity to honour and showcase game-changers in all forms of music-focused creativity. The vision is to connect artists and industry professionals with existing and new audiences, as well as their peers. It is a chance for artists to share their unique perspectives on the creative process, monumental moments, influential pieces of art, and the industry.
This particular KUrated introduces the new KU lyric tees. These tees have been created with the idea of honouring and paying homage to legends of the craft that have inspired the label to be what it is today. KU was built upon Dan’s love for music. It is important to acknowledge and recognise not only the artists on the KU roster but also those who paved the way and inspired the inception of the label. The lyric tee is an extension of the KUrated series, created to keep the spirit of legends alive and spread awareness about the greats that have inspired future generations.
"Now here's a funky introduction of how nice I am" said the late great, Malik Taylor, and nice he was! Better known to the world as Phife Dawg, and one of the emcees in legendary hip hop crew, A Tribe Called Quest.
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Phife took an early interest in music and began rapping at school and in his neighborhood. Art was no stranger to the Taylor family, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, Phife’s Mother, was a poet herself, the original wordsmith in the family, subconsciously setting in motion a legacy in Hip Hop that has outlived the physical being of her son.
Poetry and flow were in his blood, but Phife took his mother’s love for words and filtered it through his love for hip hop. His vocal delivery was a smoothly spread butter. The perfect balance between playful yet focused. It’s laid back, but its layers pack a subtle punch. It leads the listener right into the most cushiony part of the pocket and creates an illusion that the bars are effortless. It was clear that poetry and flow were in his blood and his mot.
Phife Dawg’s authenticity and dedication to be well versed in his craft is consistently present in his entire catalogue of recorded material. No matter who else is on track, it stands out and shines amidst big personalities. It quietly grabs the attention, without ever demanding. Which proved to be an important dynamic between him and his fellow A Tribe Called Quest emcee, Q-Tip.
A Tribe Called Quest.
Check The Rhime.
There is and was no one more perfect to play counterpart to powerful music mastermind Q-tip. While others may have approached the situation by trying to be bigger than Q-Tip vocally, Phife hits the bars with ease and a relaxing energy. He found a way to be the fresh air to balance out the seriousness and next-level thinking of Q-tip. Phife brought a carefree attitude to every verse. A pure and undeniable presence that seemed to exist each time he stepped up to the mic. Serving up the supreme juxtaposition to his creative partner.
Speaking to his individual influence on the hip hop and rap genre, his ability to blend his love for sports with his musical expression, is something seen in many of his predecessors. Often highlights of rap lyrics are the connections made between pop culture references. Sports are a common theme of these references, and Phife took every opportunity to squeeze one in on a verse. He loved sports as much as he loved music, and it was easy to know that from listening to his lyrics. His wide range of sports references from boxing to hockey read like a sports Hall of Fame almanac, “I skate on your crew like Mario Lemeiux”, “Keep it Rollin”.
A Tribe Called Quest.
Oh My God.
“Today’s a hip-hop draft. Will I be top-seeded?.... I’m Jordan with the mic, huh, wanna gamble” — "Lyrics to Go”
The early 90s brought a lot of success for ATCQ but also introduced Phife’s diagnosis of diabetes. A medical condition he battled a majority of his career, and ultimately led to the complications that would take his life in March of 2016.
The love for poetry that his mother and he shared has now come full circle, with the recent release of Boyce-Taylor’s 2021 book, ‘Mama Phife Represents’. A vulnerable look into the mourning of a mother, through poetry and stories, inspired by the celebrated life lived by her son.
Nearly 40 years after A Tribe Called Quest formed, the group continues to be honored and mentioned as one of the greatest and most influential Hip Hop groups of all time. It’s no surprise that Phife Dawg, prior and post his passing in 2016, is consistently in the conversation when the heads are speaking about their “Top 5” emcees.