Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Quality time with A Tribe Called Quest, R.I.P. Phife

I listen to music constantly - anything and everything I can get my ears on. I'm an unabashed music glutton probably in need of some kind of therapy. It's safe to say because of this insatiable, uncontrollable urge - let's call it a disease - no artist is on heavy rotation in any device that injects this art form into my soul. Not Johnny Cash, not Brian Wilson, not The Cure, not Morrissey - my favorites. This is all the more reason I just had a WTF moment when I learned that the great Phife Dawg passed away at 45.

Phife, Q-Tip and their hip-hop group, A Tribe Called Quest, spent a better part of the last few months unmercifully bruising my ear drums with their sick beats and indomitable lyrics. After a one-off reunion performance on The Tonight Show to celebrate the 25th anniversary and reissue of their masterpiece debut LP "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm," I couldn't get enough of them.

Part nostalgia-part getting to know an old friend better, I have been binging on all-things-Tribe since that November performance. I had a few Tribe and Q-Tip solo songs here and there, and, of course, the Tribe's "The Low End Theory," which was the hip-hop soundtrack of my high school days, but there was plenty I had not heard. I bought all of their albums and went through their entire catalogue. I watched their award-winning documentary. And I even ordered myself A Tribe Called Quest T-shirt, which I just so happened to throw on this morning, before I learned of Phife's passing. If there were Tribe action figures and lunch boxes, who knows, I may have bought 'em also. Feels like I just got to know a long-lost uncle really well, and he gets hit by a bus. WTF, indeed.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me be a hypocrite and ask you to do something I wouldn't do myself: put the Tribe on heavy rotation. With Phife, they delivered the best three-punch combo in the history of rap: "People's Instinctive Travels...," "The Low End Theory," and "Midnight Marauders." Phife and Q-Tip's lyrical barrage over Ali Shaheed Muhammad's jazzy beats and genius samples (few can get away with sampling Lou Reed AND French national anthem, "La Marseillaise") will be well worth the price of (my) admission.