On Saturday November 19th family, friends and fans of the late Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor crammed a Queens, NY street corner to celebrate his life and commitment to his community. The founding member of A Tribe Called Quest was memorialized with the corner of Linden Blvd and 192nd Street in St. Alban’s being renamed in his honor less than a year after he succumbed to diabetes complications in March. Anyone familiar with Phife Dawg’s music knows how much this intersection meant to him.
“My posse up on Linden and 1-9-2/ Pull up my brothas from Sayers Ave., the Brooklyn Zoo” Phife Dawg, “The Jazz” (Re-recording)
“Malik and I met in 1998 and every time we came to New York he would bring me to this block, Linden and 192,” his widow Deisha said of the street that Phife immortalized in songs like “The Jazz,” “Steve Biko” and “Check The Rhime.” The Nu-Clear Dry Cleaners where the group shot the video for the latter in 1991 stands in the foreground, tattooed with the likenesses of all four members thanks to muralist Vince Ballentine. “His grandmother and parents raised him on this block so it was always symbolic to him. So it’s pretty amazing that I’m here today because the last time I was here was probably with him.”
Many of those family members were on hand to celebrate the unveiling of the street sign. Hundreds decked out in head-to-toe A Tribe Called Quest gear waved signs and danced as DJ J Period shook the streets with songs from Tribe and Phife. Fellow hip-hop luminaries like DJ Hurricane, Rockwilder, DJ Cool V, Craig G, Mr. Walt and BpZy stood elbow to elbow amid the crowd of supporters. The party doubled as a public celebration of the group’s first album in 18 years We Got It From Here…Thank you For Your Service, selling over 120,000 copies in its first week and Phife’s birthday on November 20th. He would have been 46 years old.
“He was a premature twin. He was two pounds, fifteen ounces when he was born,” his mother Cheryl Boyce-Taylor said of that special day in 1970. “His brother [Mikal Taylor] only lived for 8 hours. But his kidneys were half the size of a normal kidney. His dad and I brought him home after being in the hospital for three and half months.”
Phife’s mother insisted that despite his ordeal in the hospital that the infant Malik was the most pleasant baby. He was a fighter from day one so when he was later diagnosed with diabetes it didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams as an entertainer. According to members of Tribe, Phife spent his last days traveling to record their final album despite his failing health.
“He did peritoneal dialysis, which is a type of self dialysis you do four times a day,” his mother explained. “And often he’d be coming off the stage after a performance to do an exchange, is what we called it. It was very rough for him. But he chose to do it that way so that he could travel and do his work. I don’t know how he did it because I’m also a type 1 diabetic. So I just learned from him. He was my teacher. I learned a lot from him.”
“He really was the Trini Gladiator,” his father Walt Taylor added for emphasis.
After a rousing prayer from Phife’s good friend Quest Green and words of gratitude from Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Jarobi White, and Consequence, the crowd gathered near the lamp post for the long awaited unveiling. Deisha lead the crowd in a chant of “Phife, Phife, Phife” before the sleeve was pulled off of the green signpost and “Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Way” became official.
After the ceremony a group of midnight marauders, led by Jarobi White, adjourned to nearby St. Alban’s Park to ring in Phife’s birthday.
Q-Tip told Billboard magazine that the group would be going on one final tour to support their album and Deisha confirmed that Phife Dawg’s solo album, which he completed before he passed, would be released some time in early 2017.