Malik I. Taylor, the rapper known as Phife Dawg who was a founding member of the seminal group A Tribe Called Quest, died yesterday at the age of 45.
When Phife Dawg — co-founder of groundbreaking hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest — died Tuesday due to complications from diabetes, he didn’t just leave behind a wife and son; he left behind a musical family as well: The Native Tongues, which aside from Tribe originally comprised De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah and Monie Love (Mos Def, Common, Black Sheep and others joined the fold later on).
In the first interview from a Native Tongues member since Phife’s death, Monie Love, the British rapper-turned-radio personality (she’s currently on the syndicated Ed Lover Show), spoke to Billboard about Phife’s friendship and music.
Do you remember the first time you met Phife? The spring of 1988, at either Calliope Studios or Q-Tip’s house in Queens. Q-Tip was still living with his mother, of course — we were all like 17 to 18 years old. Tribe’s first album [1990’s People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm] hadn’t been completed yet, and my album was still being recorded. We would do pre-production out of either Q-Tip’s house or [Jungle Brothers member] Afrika [Baby Bam’s] house, and then do proper vocals at Calliope Studios in Manhattan.
What was Phife like back then? A jokester, a prankster, always finding something to laugh at. He was never serious; he’s a silver-linings person. We also bonded because we’re both of West Indian descent, him being Trinidadian and me being Jamaican. He would always bond with me over food, and the similarities between Trinidadian cooking and Jamaican cooking.