Thank Phife For The Low End Theory, It Changed My Life
Written by Danny P Ocean on March 23, 2016
A Tribe Called Quest meant a lot to me growing up. In fact, The Low End Theory was the first cd I ever purchased. For me, ATCQ represented how one can evolve from rayon to throwbacks and still keep it hip hop. See in high school I was a Daisy Age wearing, left my Wallet in El Segundo leaving, dreadlocks maneuvering. But then Check the Rhyme dropped the summer of 91, and my fashion sense was forever altered.
I remember the first Technicolor visuals of Quest vibing out taking us back to the Boulevard of Linden where they used to kick routines. Except this time, they didn’t look like a hip hop thrift shop. They were sporting jerseys, caps, jean shirts, etc. I had a feeling from the first bars that their whole style was flipped, and I was correct. Usually, Tip was the voice of Quest, but this time, Phife wanted to give us a funky introduction. And damn son, he was on some most improved player type shit. If rap music had doors, Phife Diggy kicked in that mugg and left them off the hinges.
See the last time we saw Phife he was rhyming like one verse to every 8 of Q-Tip’s. Phife was playing George Harrison to Q-Tip’s John Lennon/Paul McCartney. But somewhere between the first two albums The Five-Footer got his bar game up and came out the box letting cats know they could no longer sleep on him.
Throughout The Low End Theory Phife proved that he was no longer playing backup vocals to Q-Tip, he wanted the spotlight also. On songs such as Butter, Vibes and Stuff, and Infamous Date Rape Phife displayed one liner after one liner that kept a young cat like me bringing back the song one time. Even though Q-Tip was my favorite rapper out of the two, Phife provided a style that seemed as if he would be comfortable in any lunch room in America banging on a table and going for his.
However, my favorite Phife moment on The Low End Theory has to be Buggin Out. All I remember is vibing out to the Excursions song and then hearing that bass start up followed by Phife declaring “Microphone Check One-Two What Is This!!!” I stopped and looked at the speaker like what kind of sorcery is this?? Phife is snapping the funk out!!
A Tribe Called Quest, in my opinion, was the John the Baptist to OutKast’s Jesus. Without Quest we may have never got groups like Kast or Little Brother. Hell without Quest I may still be walking around looking a PM Dawn reject. Ain’t no telling. I owe a lot to that group, and it hurts to know that with the death of Phife we will never get to see them on stage again or record a new song. It also continues to show the mortality of our generation. At one time it seemed like old age and death was as far away as Pluto. Now our rap legends are falling like autumn leaves.
Over the next few days and weeks we will be flooded with all of the Phife tributes we can stand, and deservedly so. My only gripe is that once again we wait until a rapper/singer is gone to plant their tree. We so easily forget what our entertainers meant to us as a new one warms the spot.
Rest In Peace Phife, may you live forever in song.