Born Malik Izaak Taylor, the legendary and beloved Phife Dawg was a co-founder of the multi-Grammy Award nominated, multi-platinum selling, equally legendary and beloved hip-hop act A Tribe Called Quest. Along with his work with Tribe, Phife Dawg was a solo artist, who collaborated with lengthy lists of acts and artists including Fu-Schnickens, Diamond D, Chi-Ali, Black Sheep‘s Dres, De La Soul‘s Trugoy and countless others, eventually releasing his solo debut album, 2000’s Ventilation: Da LP.
If you’re a hip-hop head, you’d remember that the members of A Tribe Called Quest — Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad — reunited in 2006 to help Phife Dawg with mounting medical expenses as a result of complications with diabetes. They co-headlined that year’s Bumbershoot Festival and played a handful of sold-out across across the States, Canada and Japan, including making appearances at the 2K Sports Bounce Tour. According to Phife Dawg, the members of the beloved hip-hop had planned to release an album to finish-off their six-album contract with Jive Records.
In 2008, A Tribe Called Quest was the headlining act for that year’s Rock the Bells tour. Taylor, who had been dealing with complications from diabetes over the past decade, wound up receiving a kidney translate from his wife. At the end of the that year, Q-Tip released his long-awaited sophomore album The Renaissance, which he followed with the release of 2009’s Kamaal The Abstract, which had been shelved for over seven years.
Tribe co-headlined 2010’s Rock the Bells and that year, Taylor had planned to release his highly-anticipated sophomore album Songs in the Key of Phife: Volume 1 (Cheryl’s Big Son); however, continued health issues delayed the release of the album. In 2013, it was reported that Phife had went back to work on his sophomore album, which was re-titled MUTTYmorPHosis. During that same period, the tense relationship between the act’s co-founder was famously documented in Michael Rapaport’s 2011 documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest.
In 2015, the members of A Tribe Called Quest reunited to perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of the act’s debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. In what would be the last few months of his life, Taylor had been incredibly busy: he had finished his long-anticipated sophomore album, now titled Forever, collaborating with a collection of trusted, All-Star producers and artists. Additionally, Tribe had secretly gone into the studio to work on what would be their sixth and final album We Got It From Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service. Tragically, Taylor died as the entire group were finishing the album; the remaining members finished the album and posthumously released the album, as a tribute to their co-founder.
Taylor’s family and estate will be finally releasing Phife Dawg’s long-awaited sophomore album Forever later this year. “He worked really hard to complete his album before he transitioned, and he was ready to share an album that was near and dear to his heart with his fans,” Taylor’s family says of the album. “His fans meant the world to him.” So far, one single has been released from the album, “Nutshell, Part 2,” featuring Busta Rhymes and Redman — and as a taste of the album, it’s a classic New York hip-hop banger, in which three legendary emcees spit bars and trade zingers over a subtle DJ Rasta Root reworking of a J. Dilla production.
Earlier this year, I wrote about “French Kiss Deux,” which found the beloved and legendary “Five Foot Assassin” teamed up with Vancouver-based production duo Potatohead People and J. Dilla’s younger brother Illa J on a tribute to one of my favorite cities, Montreal that featured the two emcees trading verses admiring the city’s beautiful women and scenery over a subtle Potatohead People remix of the original. The end result is a vibey J. Dilla-like Golden Era hip-hop production centered around shimmering Rhodes, reverb drenched horns and twitter and woofer rocking beats. It’s an infectious, feel good banger — that for me brings back some fond memories of the Quebecois city.
Phife’s estate released a new version of French Kiss, “French Kiss Trois,” which features a new guest verse with the legendary Redman, who helps to build upon a loving ode to Montreal. The third installment came to life when Redman heard “Deux” back in May and fell so deeply in love with the song that he desperately wanted to become a part of a new version of the song.
Redman’s guest verse sees the legendary emcee alternating between hilariously crude while joking about finding a girl that would be comfortable enough to fart in the tub near you, and ask if she wants to watch wrestling or boxing. But simultaneously, Red manages to paint a loving picture of a strong, confident, down to earth woman — the sort of woman that straight men would consider themselves profoundly lucky to find. Maybe that woman can be found in lovely Montreal, right?
“It’s dope to see the evolution of this song, from the first version on my album Illa J to Phife’s version, to 6 years later Potatohead people doing a sick remix of the track, and now Redman adding a verse to it, with Ali Shaheed on the mix,” Illa J says in press notes. “It’s an honor having a track with 2 hip-hop legends on it, this one will always be a special joint for me.”
“When Red called my phone and told me that he had ‘French Kiss Deux’ on repeat, I knew what was coming next,” Dion “Roots” Liverpool adds. “Hedidn’t even have to ask me and I was excited. Once he sent me a video of his computer and pressed play, I remembered yelling really loud!!”
“The day Dion called and said that Redman had French Kiss on repeat and immediately wrote a verse, I was excited. Phife would be going crazy with Red being on this song,.”Phife’s wife Deisha Taylor shares. “Anytime you hear Redman on any track you know it will be dope. The atmosphere and energy shifts when he is on any song or walks in the building.”
“As soon as I heard the song, I played it back-to-back 100 + times. I had to hit Potatohead People and Dion to tell them I was writing a verse,” Redman says. “Being in the music video was amazing, and I know I’m doing it for Phife. I don’t think he gets enough credit, so God made this my mission to help best way I can.”
Executive produced by Phife Dawg’s longtime friend and collaborator, Dion “Roots” Liverpool and co-directed by Redman, Tony Reames and Konee Rock, the recently released video for “French Kiss Trois” follows Redman and Ill J in Montreal, admiring and hanging out with the city’s beautiful women — at beautiful locations. The video, features some gorgeous animation of Phife and a special guest appearance from Phife’s widow Deisha Taylor, lovingly reminiscing over photos of her husband. The video ends with the group coming together to celebrate and honor Phife’s life and work.