This morning as I woke up — sort of — for a (brief) few minutes, my wife broke the news to me: Phife, of A Tribe, Called Quest, had passed. His cause of death was not immediately disclosed, although, as intimately disclosed in their Michael Rapaport produced documentary, he had in the past suffered kidney failure and required a transplant to survive. It’s likely that his death was the result of complications of diabetes, a condition that also claimed the life of my biological father.
His passing hits me — and I assume most hip-hop heads — quite hard. I consider A Tribe Called Quest to be my favourite group of all time. That’s not just something I say, either. I walked into a store at the age of 11 and purchased Low-End Theory on Cassette, and often consider Midnight Marauders, the second album I ever purchased on CD, to be amongst my most treasured. The Tribe have been a mainstay in my life, and the passing of Phife closes a chapter in hip-hop that many of us never wanted to close. Phife was a true emcee and a living/breathing testament to everything we loved about New York/Eastcoast hip-hop in the 90’s.
It’s a beautiful thing that he was able to patch up his differences with Q-Tip, though. The fact that he was able to reunite, as recently as November, to perform classics, and celebrate the 25 year legacy of the group is a magical thing that Phife got to experience, and that we — as fans — got to see him experience. I can proudly say that I saw A Tribe Called Quest (in their entirety) live in concert, and will treasure the moment forever.
He leaves behind a legacy that will never tarnish; Phife will always remain a timeless figure in the foundation of the culture us purists hold dear. Prayers and condolences to his family — and peace to the Zulu Nation.