Some folks rant about people mourning the death of entertainers or celebs, and if you're kind of fan of "A Tribe Called Quest" then Malik Taylor aka Phife Didd-dawg was the energetic essence of that, but he was also the dude I'd see on the regular in NYC. Specifically in video game arcades where he'd hold down a machine for hours, beating anyone who foolishly stepped to challenge, or just rocking the machine by himself. If you have no idea who I'm talking about let me take a few lyrics from the man himself to explain:
"Now here's a funky introduction of how nice I am Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram I'm like an energizer cause, you see, I last long My crew is never ever wack because we stand strong"
From "Check the Vibe" by A Tribe Called Quest
(This video shot with contours of a desolate DUMBO in the Background)
Phife on his preference of women:
Word to God hon, I don't get down like that."
"I never half step cause I'm not a half stepper Drink a lot of soda so they call me Dr. Pepper(sad! He was referring to his indulgence of sugars that led to his diabetes) Refuse to compete with BS competition Your name ain't Special Ed so won't you seckle with the mission I never walk the street thinking it's all about me Even though deep in my heart, it really could be I just try my best to like go all out Some might even say yo shorty black you're buggin' out"
Damn! Imagine being 20 years old and those lyrics play over Tribe's dope beats as you walk down the street, into the club, off to class, Phife aka #MalikTaylor made an introduction, lines for anyone feeling the vibe, especially someone young as he was then, trying to find their way.
It's very important to note these albums came out over 20 years ago, when HipHop was still a largely unknown genre, and when images of HipHop ranged from under budget to cliched. Yet A Tribe Called Quest powered by Q-Tip's fertile visual imagination, he and Phife's lyrical flows, Ali Shaheed Muhammad's dope beats and all three of their combined energies created videos which were imaginative, bugged out (sometimes literally, as shown above) and always full of Black and Brown faces.
Smiling faces, Hard Faces, Happy Faces, Dancing Faces, Living Breathing on the Block from Bk to Queens, faces. Us just living, being, us.
I can't begin to express what it was like in the 90's to click on "Video Music Box" (running on a public tv station channel 31 here in NYC at the time) and seeing the block my family lived on, and the people of Brooklyn I recognized as everyday people being the setting for the music of the moment. Tribe was a part of the culture that elevated an unseen NYC for millions of people.
From "Hot Sex" A Tribe Called Quest (on the Boomerange Movie Soundtrack)
Me, I used to be a gamer, hardcore, and like others I'd go to the city to play the best in the land. I saw Phife regularly in the arcade. Occasionally I'd stand by and watch his gamer skills. He was totally unpretentious. A regular dude like everyone else, flexing skills at a serious hobby, concentrating mad hard, or cracking jokes.
Seeing him struggle with diabetes in the "A Tribe Called Quest" documentary was rough, but like anyone would, I'd hoped he was recovering toward a happy ending.
45 is young. Way too young to go.