RIP Phife Dawg

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I spent countless hours blasting the jazzy beats and rhymes of Tribe Called Quest in my parents’ basement as a kid. Quest, along with so many others, transported me to the gritty New York streets – visions of a world I hadn’t yet seen but only imagined (as vibrant as any of Holden Caulfield’s exploits).

At the time my brother Troy was publishing a little music rag called The Seed out in Indianapolis and asked me to write reviews about the raps I devoured (I was probably the only weird teenager in Montana who subscribed to The Source and habitually recorded Yo! MTV Raps). Quest was always at the top of the heap with two of the most important rap records ever made – The Low End Theory and Midnight Maraudersrevolutionary albums that forever altered the landscape of Hip Hop.

Of course, there would never have been a Tribe Called Quest without the 5 Ft Assassin, Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor), who we lost this week after a long battle with diabetes. Phife had been vocal about his fight with the disease since the 90s, telling Michael Rapaport in the must-see documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life“It’s really a sickness … Like straight-up drugs. I’m just addicted to sugar.”

Thanks for the raps Phife. Thanks for letting me know there was a another world out there worth exploring. RIP brother, your whole life was an Award Tour. Thank you for sharing it with us.

“Why they dodgin’ bullets, you should be dodgin Quest!”

JOSHUA FRANK is the managing editor of CounterPunch. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America, published by Haymarket Books. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank.