Phife Dawg, “the Five Foot Assassin from the Zulu Nation,” the heart of Tribe Called Quest, freestyle genius, deliverer of funny, clever punch lines, and sports enthusiast passed on March 22nd after a long struggle with diabetes. As much as his rhymes boasted player tendencies in real life, he was a family man.
His wife donated her kidney to him in 2008, but the transplant ultimately proved to be unsuccessful.
In the documentary, Beats, Rhymes & Life, The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, one of the most slept on lyricists, Black Thought from the Roots, bigs up the group’s lyrical flow and gives credit to Tribe as paving the way for The Roots: “People looked at them as the Miles Davis of hip hop.”
Here are some of my favorite lines from Phife, who always added insider-only sports and pop culture references.
“I like ’em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican, or Haitian. Name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation. Told you in the jam that we can get down, Now let’s knock the boots like the group H-Town, You got BBD all on your bedroom walls/ But I’m above the rim, and this is how I ball…
Let me hit it from the back, girl I won’t catch a hernia. Bust off on your couch, now you got Seaman’s furniture!”
“When was the last time you heard the Phifer sloppy, Lyrics anonymous, you’ll never hear me copy, Top notch baby, never comin less, Sky’s the limit, you gots to believe up in Quest. Sit back , relax, get up out the path, If not that, here’s the dancefloor, come move that ass!…
The wackest crews try to dis, it makes me laugh, When my track record’s longer than a DC-20 aircraft…
I roll with Shaheed and the brother Abstract, Know the time when Quest is in the jam, I never let a statue tell me how nice I am, Coming with my more hits than the Braves and the Yankees…”
“I float like gravity, never had a cavity, I got more rhymes than the Winans got family!
Talk a lot of trash but no one can seem to beat it/ Pull out your microphone and watch the Phifer make you eat it..”
Push it Along:
“Should I release the lever, the lever of the clever, Embellish on the funk as we start to endeavor…”
Can I Kick It:
“Right now, Phife is a poem sayer, At times, I’m a studio conveyer, Mr. Dinkins, would you please be my mayor, You’ll be doing us a really big favor…
“Well here comes Flo with the crazy whip appeal, And I’m all true man, like Alexander O’NealI…
If you can’t braid it, best thing to do is fade it, Iasked who did your hair and you tell me “Diane made it”, If you were you and just you, talk to you, maybe, But I can’t stand no bionic lady,Tryin hard to look fly, but yo, you’re looking dumber, If I wanted someone like you I woulda swung with Jamie Summers.”
“Bogus brothers making albums when they know they can’t hack it, Cause they lyrics is played like 8-Ball jackets, Now tell me I can’t tear it up, Go get yourself some toilet paper cause your lyrics is butt.
Vibes and Stuff:
“I’m just a short brother, dark skin face, weigh a buck fifty, 36 waist, Hair is crazy curly, flip like Mr. Furley, til this do I do believe that no MC can serve me…
Party animal I was, but now I chill at home, All I do is write rhymes, eat, drink, shit and bone…
Yo, I’m out like Buster Douglas, peace to MC Trouble, rest in peace.”
The Infamous Date Rape:
“Uh huh, you know science, you get buckwild, Runnin mad games as if your name was Scott Skiles…
All of a sudden, her sugarwalls tumble down like Jericho…”
“He said a rhyme about his .45 and his nickel bags of weed, That’s when I proceeded to give him what he needed, Talking bout I need a Phillie right before I get loose, Poor excuse, money please, I get loose off orange juice…
Don’t step on the roly, If you know that you’re phony, Or else I bend that ass like elbow macaroni…”
Baby Phife’s Return:
“The mad man Malik makes MCs run for Milk of Magnesia. Maybe thatll ease ya…
You lose your grip from chalk climbing, Let me take this time to say RIP to Phyllis Hyman, Who never got the props she damn well deserved…
I’ll have your brain going in circles as my style tends to ovulate…”
Clap Your Hands:
“If I ever went solo my favorite MC would be me…”
Pad and Pen:
“Don’t make me discombobulate your microphone, Talking trash will only get your freaking head flown…”
“I got the riches, the bitches, I’m large like Huxtable,You think you’re all that but your girl’s quite doable…”
“Just come inside your jam and witness who’s boss, And it won’t be Tony Danza nor Diana Ross…”
Check the Rhime:
“Now heres a funky introduction of how nice I am, Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram, Im like an energizer cause, you see, I last long, My crew is never ever whack because we stand strong…”
Jazz (we got the…):
“I’m all into my music cuz it’s how I make papes, Tryin’ to make hits, like Kid Capri makes tapes, Me sweat another? I do my own thing, Strictly hardcore tracks, not a new jack swing. I grew up as a Christian so to Jah I give thanks, Collect my banks, listen to Shabba Ranks, I sing, and chat, I do all of that, It’s 1991 and I refuse to come wack.
I take off my hat to other crews that intend to rock, But the Low End Theory’s here, it’s time to wreck shop. I got Tip and Shah, so whom shall I fear, Stop look and listen, but please don’t stare…”
“Your style is played out like a two-tone down goose, You couldn’t Converse if you had fuckin’ react-juice. So hold your corner as I fuckin bless this mic in here, I’m eatin through your crew like Stephen King’s Langoliers. Chop off my feet, word to God, I’m gonna hurt you. Will y’all fall off? Will Laura F*** Urkel?”
“You see you, your career is done like Johnny Carson’s. Get me vexed, I do like Left Eye, I’ll start an arson. Now that I got that out my system, Watch me stab up the track as if my name was OJ Simpson!…”
“Quick is how I flip from the tip of the lip, Punchin out hits like Gladys Knight and the Pips. The 5 foot assassin has just raided your area, Your booty rhymes are wack and that’s the reason why I’m hearin ya, So, Pull out the red carpet cuz I’m kickin this. Vanilla Ice platinum? That shit’s ridiculous!…”
Lyrics to Go:
“Today’s a hip-hop draft will I be top-seeded? Worked too frickin hard while all the rest were gettin weeded, Steady kickin styles so I can reach that other level, worry ’bout gettin gassed, I push the pedal to the metal. Always wanted this cause it surely beats a scramble, I’m Jordan with the mic, huh, wanna gamble?”
What are your favorite Phife Lyrics?