On the morning of Wednesday (March 23) music fans around the world were shocked and saddened to receive the news of Phife Dawg’s passing 1/3rd of the legendary group, A Tribe Called Quest, passed away due to compilations from Type 1 diabetes, a long and hard fight he’s had to endure since he was diagnosed in 1990. One of the most beloved — and unsung heroes — of the culture died at the age of 45.
The “5 Foot Assassin,” real name Malik Taylor, was known for his remarkably nimble, witty and outlandish style in contrast with ATCQ co-founder and producer Q-Tip’s smooth and esoteric flow. Although he didn’t reach the same level of mainstream stardom as a solo artist like Tip, his memorable contributions directly influenced many artists like Common, Jay Electronica, Jill Scott, and Kayne West — among many others. And as we all witnessed during ATCQ’s last grandstand in November, Taylor’s uniqueness wasn’t limited to his scene stealing verses.
As a reminder of how animated and crucial Phife was to hip-hop, VIBE collected our 10 favorite video appearances from the Queens native. This list includes videos from ATCQ, along with his guest appearances, and his highly underrated solo work.
Here are 10 times Phife Dawg was always on point.
Phife Dawg “Dear Dilla”
His tribute cut to the late Detroit producer J. Dilla is a beautiful visual that doubles as a fitting memorial. Phife reflects on how the game isn’t the same without him while also giving a humbling, and now chilling look into his life with diabetes. Knowing that Phife and Dilla can now break bread in heaven over this one makes it a real tear jerker. Also, peep the Donuts allusion in the flick.
A Tribe Called Quest “Electric Relaxation”
The “5 Foot Assassin” gets busy with one of his most classic verses on “Electric Relaxation,” the track that would go on to be the theme song to 90s syndicated sitcom The Wayans Bros. Here he is, cooling with the squad in the back of a taxi.
A Tribe Called Quest “Scenario”
Phife displays his one of a kind humor all in ATCQ’s star studded “Scenario” music video. Here, he’s at his most playful with and colorful with multiple wardrobe switches, and custom wig swaps as he shows all rappers how to open a posse cut. It’s a monumental video with a cameo from Spike Lee, and an early peek at Busta Rhymes during his Leaders of The New School days.
A Tribe Called Quest “Buggin’ Out”
This joint doesn’t start off too much differently than any of their other videos between 1991 and 1993 — with Q-Tip starting and Phife following up with his cool and confident presence. But it’s the hilarious outro that gets you “buggin’ out” with the bizarre and scene stealing moment that proves why Phife at times was in a tribe of his own.
Fugees feat. A Tribe Called Quest & Busta Rhymes “Rumble In The Jungle”
As part of a stunning, yet underrated posse cut from the 1997 soundtrack to When We Were Kings, Phife Dawg steps in the ring to deliver some bars that would make Ali (not the ATCQ member), proud. His moment is brief, but his strong presence makes this a memorable look.
Fu-Schnickens feat. Phife Dawg “La Schmoove”
It’s known that when the “funky diabetic” jumps on a track for a feature, he doesn’t spare a bar, and his appearance, on Fu Schnickens’ “La Shmoove” is a prime example. Phife flexes his notable street charisma in the video which adds to his already dynamic performance.
A Tribe Called Quest “Hot Sex”
Phife opens up another ATCQ classic from the Boomerang soundtrack in ’92. He makes his presence felt among one of the trio’s standout cuts with a lively performance.
Dwele feat. Phife Dawg “What Profit (Remix)”
Aged, but no less animated, the five footer gets sophisticated when he links up with neo-soul staple, Dwele. The organic chemistry between them allows Phife to finesse all on this smooth R&B joint. It demonstrates his skill to mesh genres beyond hip-hop as he flexes his witty lyricism.
Phife Dawg “Flawless”
From his debut solo album, 2000: Ventilation: Da LP, Phife Dawg makes us laugh and think at the same time with “Flawless,”a music video that’s a parody of… a music video! And while Q-Tip was making his rounds as a solo artist, Phife was emerging as a solid talent. It’s certainly one of his most memorable looks.
A Tribe Called Quest “Can I Kick It?”
Although he is far surpassed this, lyrically, “Can I Kick It” is one of his more memorable looks because this is one of the earliest views into the fun loving MC. You can’t help but to have his sways and confident finessing embedded your cranium, knowing that he would become the legendary lyricist he’s remembered as today. And all he wanted to know was if he could kick it. Yes you can, Phife. Yes, you can.