It’s sad to see artists leave us too early and it is particularly rough after the recent good news about Q-Tip being appointed Hip Hop Artistic Director at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
When I first heard the Jungle Brothers in 1989 I was in high school and my crew was jammin’ to “Girl I’ll House You” an underground house music record that was starting to get popular. I bought their first and second cassettes and on the second one a new group called A Tribe Called Quest was listed on the track “Doin Our Own Thang.” Q-Tip was the only one from ATCQ rhyming on that track.
Tribe came out with their first album in 1991 “The Low End Theory” and I heard Phife’s rhyme style for the first time. Tip and Phife both had a style that was reminiscent of Miles Davis minimalism but Tip was smooth where Phife was hard. I liked both of their styles equally but for different reasons. While Tip had a unique sound that was instantly recognizable, Phife had a certain comedic timing in the delivery of his rhyme. He knew how to set up the punchline of his lyric with the right amount of space and edginess. Just listen to the track, “The Hop” from Beats, Rhyme & Life. As we musicians would say he had perfect time. His sense of rhythm was, to coin a phrase, “on point.”
Thanks for the music Phife, we’ll always be “Check[in] the Rhime.”