On the sixth anniversary of rap legend and A Tribe Called Quest member Phife Dawg’s passing, the late rapper’s estate released his second studio album and first posthumous effort, Forever. The LP celebrates the life and artistry of one of rap’s most beloved figures.
Years in the making, with prior releases like the Busta Rhymes and Redman assisted “Nutshell Pt. 2” and “French Kiss Trois” featuring Redman and Illa J ramping up the anticipation, Forever arrives with an ample amount of fanfare more than 20 years after Phife’s 2000 debut, Ventilation: Da LP.
While posthumous albums are bittersweet, hearing Phife undress and appraise posers atop production by 9th Wonder on the opening cut, “Only a Coward,” is sure to bring a smile to loyalists of The Funky Diabetic, as the track effectively sets the tone for the proceedings to come. As is often the case for albums released following the artist’s death, Forever is littered with guest appearances to help flesh out its completion, but unlike others, the record does a great job of staying true to Phife’s core sound and aesthetic. This is demonstrated through contributions from the likes of Rapsody and Renée Neufville (“Fallback”) and Lyric Jones (“Residual Curiosities”), two artists who may not have had the opportunity to actually record with Phife, but whose work fits seamlessly with that of the album’s more familiar collaborators.
Following the Nottz-produced standout “Sorry,” which features V.Rich and includes a sample of Donell Jones’ R&B hit, “Where I Wanna Be,” A Tribe Called Quest groupmate Q-Tip lends vocals to “Dear Dilla Reprise,” a track memorializing late producer J. Dilla, who passed a decade prior to Phife in 2006. Dilla’s spirit is felt throughout Forever, particularly on the Dwele-assisted “God Send,” on which Phife gives thanks for meeting the iconic boardsman and other pivotal figures in his life. De La Soul member Maseo joins forces with Phife on “Wow Factor,” which boasts one of the more impressive soundscapes on the album, while Pos of De La Soul, Little Brother, and Darien Brockington pay their respects to The 5-Footer on the dedicatory cut “2 Live Forever.”
Spanning 13 tracks in length, Forever is a well-crafted body of work that does proper justice to Phife’s artistry and is sure to keep his voice amplified and his legacy as one of the culture’s greats alive.