Last weekend’s Bestival in Dorset, England, officially marked A Tribe Called Quest’s (ATCQ) last ever show. Weep with me for a second here, please.
Can I Kick It? Yes You Can.
Formed in 1985 by MC/producers Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White, A Tribe Called Quest sprung as a pioneer of alternative hip hop in Queens, New York. Throughout their sporadic run from 1991 to 2017, they released six albums, all receiving critical acclaim. During a time where gangsta rap was at its most prevalent, ATCQ’s laid back production approach and unorthodox lyrics took them out of the common pool.
Many of their tracks show the collective’s beloved unconventional methods. “Can I Kick It?” from their debut album “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” samples five different classic tracks, with “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed being the most popular. Their sophomore album “The Low End Theory” bridged the gap between jazz and hip hop, securing its spot as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. Grammy Award-winning producer Bob Power even called it “The Sgt. Pepper of hip hop” numerous times.
Thank You 4 Your Service, Phife Dawg
A month after the release of their second album, Phife Dawg was diagnosed with diabetes. He received two kidney transplants, the first from his wife being unsuccessful. His moniker “the Five Foot Assassin” came from the fact that his five foot, three inch stance oozed out so much swagger. While recording ATCQ’s sixth album “We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service,” Phife passed at the age of 45 due to complications from his sickness.
Phife chose the title and although the other members didn’t understand the meaning, they kept it for their fallen friend. In Phife’s mind, even just the title “We Got It from Here…” might have marked a permanent and continuous return for the collective before his untimely death. After all, their fifth album came out 18 years before this. He might have held on to bigger plans for ATCQ, but sadly, those plans will no longer be pushing through.
The rest of the members finished the sixth album and performed shows without Phife, making sure to continue his memory. Their triumphant SNL return alongside Dave Chappelle got all of us fans grabbing tissues.
As early as July, Q-Tip hinted at the near end for the collective. At the Panorama Festival, he told fans that “This is at as Tribe. We can’t, you know… we gotta honor our brother Phife Dawg.” No one knew when this supposed end would be until last weekend at Bestival. Midway through the set, Q-Tip interrupted “Whateva Will Be” and said “A Tribe Called Quest, we suffered a blow… we lost our boy Phife Dawg. This is gonna be our last show as A Tribe Called Quest, ever.”
When they left the stage the last time, Q-Tip thanked the crowd one more time. “27 years, thanks for all the support you’ve given us over the years. Phife Dawg!”
I write this with a heavy heart, but couldn’t agree more. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard this whole ordeal must have been on them. Thank you, A Tribe Called Quest. Thank you, Phife Dawg. No other group will ever come close to your legacy.
Featured photo from Parklife UK