This morning Phife Dawg aka Phife Diggy AKA the 5 Foot Assassin AKA the Funky Diabetic passed away at the age of 45. He had been fighting his diabetes for years, including kidney transplants in 2008 and 2012. In the end it was too much to overcome and one of the pioneers of hip hop is now gone.
What happened with A Tribe Called Quest and the fallout Phife and Q Tip had will go down under one of the most disappointing “What Ifs” of all time. Right up there with the murders of Biggie and Pac, what if ATCQ never broke up? What if they could have figured out their differences? What if Tribe was still rockin today? It was disappointing as it was as a fan to see the group not only cease to make music but to also fall apart at the seams and grow to hate each other. And although it was very, very clear there was never any reconciliation in the cards for Tip and Phife, this sort of finality now that Phife is gone is upsetting.
Phife calling himself the Funky Diabetic really was perfect. He stood at 5 foot 3, had an unmistakable voice, and the uncanny ability to start his verses with the most memorable one liners. When Phife arrived on a track his funk always took over the song for me. His style paved the way for an entire genre of hip hop, bridged the gap from a lot of the unrefined old school hip hop into the modern rap that we know now, and guys like Kendrick Lamar might not even be around today without Phife’s contribution. He and his bandmates were that important.
I always viewed him as the good guy and Q Tip as the bad guy. His voice, his height, his generally friendly rhymes and demeanor – it just made him seem like a good dude. Seemed to like everyone. He liked em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian (I guess he didnt care for white girls) and for a dude who was so small, he certainly left a big time impact on music.
Mac Miller made this mashup compilation of some of his most memorable verses and rhymes:
And probably not the most popular pick for best ATCQ single, with so many classics that came before it, but my personal favorite – 1nce Again
And if you’re a Tribe fan, hip hop fan, or just a fan of music in general and have never seen it, highly recommend Mike Rapaport’s documentary Beats Rhymes and Life: