Hip Hop/ Rap

Published on March 23rd, 2016 | by gatsbyadmin

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Phife Dawg, RIP

Rap artist Malik Taylor has died.

Music passes on through rap. Sound becomes immortal, beats, samples, and rhymes live forever. Timings, lyrical content, structure, and even stylistic elements of spitting do not exist in isolation in rap – they have inspirations, sources, and ancestors. This web is an art’s explanation for why Phife Dawg, founding member of A Tribe Called Quest and rap icon, is being mourned all over the world.

“The name is Big Daddy, you know, as in your father. So when you hear a dope rhyme, believe that I’m the author.”

phife

In his 1988 track ‘Ain’t No Half Steppin’’ Big Daddy Kane was describing a family tree he was helping to grow. As an organic musical entity, evolving by building upon what came before, rap has always stayed fresh through exploration of its fundamentals. Along with MC Q-Tip and DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Phife Dawg explored new frontiers of sound and technique that endure to this day.

Tribe and Phife were early and important parts of the national and New York rap scenes, contributing greatly to an environment of homage and reference that thickens and has sustained rap music through time. In 1993, with rap reaching new audiences and beginning to multiply, Phife was telling its story from the perspective of a founder.

“You know the steelo when the diggy Dawg is on the scene

I dedicate this to all the MCs outta Queens

That goes for Onyx, LL, Run DMC

Akinyele, Nasty Nas and the Extra P

You need a chart, straight up and down man, there ain’t no other

‘Nuff respect to all my peeps that made the album cover”

The family tree of rap has grown large through time. And as with the night sky one need only look to the brightest stars to see how far and long the lights of the past shine.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 7.16.01 PM

Take Kendrick Lamar, West Coast though he may be. More than holding a moment of silence and celebration for Phife as a “pioneer” during a concert tribute in Melbourne, if one listens closely they can hear Kendrick’s very message being traced to this man. Just one example. Phife’s death will be attributed to diabetes complications, a tragedy in his own quoted context: “[diabetes is] really a sickness…. Like straight-up drugs. I’m just addicted to sugar.” Sophisticated acknowledgements and understandings of old problems is just one type of knowledge rap music offers. And deceptive sorts of structural impoverishment is just one social phenomenon Kendrick is trying to shed light on in songs like ‘Cartoons and Cereal.’

Is Kendrick rapping about Phife? No. Not exactly. But Phife’s very life can indeed be located in rap music throughout time. It’s just one example.

Phife was still active in the studio despite no longer performing with ATCQ live. Fundamentals are forever. He was just 45.

 

Written by: Martin Osborn @o_z.z_y

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