The corner of Linden Boulevard and 192nd Street will now be known as Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor Way. Familiar faces, including surviving members of Tribe and Busta Rhymes came out to celebrate his life. Photos by Trone Dowd
BY TRONE DOWD
Just a day before what would have been his 46th birthday, the life and legacy of Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor was further immortalized. This time, rather than a vigil or simple gathering of fans, the very street where he spent many of his teen years amongst his peers becoming the legendary artist he’s remembered as today, was named after the hip-hop trailblazer.
The newly christening Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor Way, located at 192nd Street and Linden Boulevard, was home to block party-like vibes this past Saturday, as A Tribe Called Quest classics boomed and reverberated down the St. Albans streets the late rapper once called home. Headed by Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), the push for such a ceremony is a direct result of a worldwide call to have a street in Phife’s hometown named after him.
“There are folks from all over the country that are here to share moments and be a part of this legacy. You are in a community here in St. Albans area that is so rich with musical and cultural history and legacy,” Miller said, listing off names like Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown and Lena Horne who all built a legacy in the historically black neighborhood. “Tribe is a part of that.”
As mentioned by the councilman, hundreds of fans, some coming as far as Illinois and Ohio, came out to see the ceremony. One group of fans told the Press of Southeast Queens that they were simply happy to be a part of the occasion and saw it as a way of thanking the group for the years of inspiration provided through Tribe’s music.
“Being from Queens, I am very excited about this,” said 23-year-old Jamal Braimah of Lefrak City. “It’s like when your neighborhood hero gets a movie. This is the same type of feeling, to know that this is here, on the block that he grew up on, across the street from the cleaners where they filmed probably one of the top ten videos in the history of rap [Check the Rhime].”
Corona resident, 21-year-old Irving Rios said that growing up, Tribe stood out amongst the rest because of how different they were from their contemporaries.
“The fusion of jazz and hip-hop made for something very unique,” Rios said. “Their voice. What they were talking about and their sound. No one has a voice like Q-Tip. No one has a voice like Phife.”
Just a week ago, A Tribe Called Quest released their fifth and seemingly final album, “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service,” after a near 18 year hiatus. The album has received overwhelmingly positive reviews across the board with some music writers calling it an album of the year contender.
Hip-hop enthusiast and Hot 97 radio personality Peter Rosenberg told the Press of Southeast Queens that, “the new album is mind blowing.”
“Not in my wildest dreams could I have expected it to be this good,” Rosenberg said. “Listening to this for the first time reminded me of the first time getting to listen to ‘Midnight Marauders.’ I was shocked by how much it feels like a Tribe album. It doesn’t feel forced. It is arguably one of the best albums of 2016 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it nominated for album of the year at the Grammys.”
He said that he was inspired by the amount of people who have united to remember the hip-hop legend.
“It was overwhelming and shocking when we lost Phife Dawg,” he said. “But now, it’s been this overwhelming surprise between this album, today, the reception and Saturday Night Live. This whole thing has been this reward for this group that is so well-deserved, and for him and his family. Not to be generic, but these kind of things keep someone alive. They are super meaningful to the people around him and the people that loved him. It’s important. It’s wonderful, it’s right and I’m honored to be here.”
In addition to the numerous politicians, including Miller, state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Assemblyman Clyde Vanel (D-Cambria Heights) and Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), well respected hip-hop artists and close friends of Phife came out to remember their dear friend fondly along with his endearing fans. The likes of Busta Rhymes, Consequence and all three surviving members of A Tribe Called Quest were in attendance.
Phife’s mother, father, wife and children were also there to see the kind of effect their loved one had on the world. They all agreed that since his passing, they have a new appreciation for the kind of love his fans had for him.
“I was aware of his influence, but since his passing it’s been a whole different animal,” Phife’s mom Cheryl Taylor told the Press of Southeast Queens.
“I understood it to a certain degree,” Phife’s father Walt Taylor said. “But as Cheryl said, since he passed away, the love has been overwhelming.”
Cheryl and Walt said that fans have reached out directly to the family to thank them and tell them just how much their son meant to their lives.” Walt called his son his “little Trini gladiator.” Phife’s wife, Deisha Head Taylor also reminisced about their early days dating, remembering just how much pride he had in being from the borough of Queens.
As a part of the ceremony, a number of community poets got up and performed sonnets in memory of the Southeast Queens hero.
Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor passed away in March from complications of type 1 diabetes. He was 45 years old.
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123 firstname.lastname@example.org or @theloniusly