Phife Dawg's passing at the age of 45 in 2016 stunned hip-hop fans around the world. As the "everyman" of A Tribe Called Quest, the man born Malik Taylor was a fixture of 1990s hip-hop and a part of one of the genre's most visionary groups. In a bittersweet testament to the group's enduring popularity, a new A Tribe Called Quest album was announced months after Phife's death.
Mostly completed in the months before Phife's death (as opposed to using pre-recorded material posthumously), We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service marked Tribe's return after 18 years and despite the loss of Phife, fans were understandably excited for the new project. And the album was very well-received, earning a Grammy nomination.
In tribute to Phife and the legacy of ATCQ, here's a look at ten of the videos that not only defined the group; but also a large segment of what hip-hop meant to the Yo! MTV Raps generation.
"Hot Sex" (1993)'Boomerang' (Orig. Motion Picture Sdtk)
This video has an odd sort of significance with Tribe fans because of it's crazy backstory. According to stories, Q-Tip's famous ski mask was an attempt to cover up scars on his face that came from a fight he got into with the members of Wrecks-N-Effect.
Yeah--the "Rumpshaker" guys. Go figure.
"Stressed Out" (1996)'Beats, Rhymes & Life'
A hit single with Faith Evans' distinctive vocals on the hook, the video inadvertantly communicated the constrictions ATCQ was feeling around this time--with the walls closing in on everyone as their tightly-knit unit was starting to unravel.
"Oh My God" (1994)'Midnight Marauders'
Busta Rhymes shows up for the infectious hook and a memorable cameo in a video that captures the fun and enthusiasm of the group, as they chase a truck through Queens for the entirety of the clip. A funny and sincere love letter to neighborhoods.
"Find A Way" (1998)'The Love Movement'
A bittersweet but fun summertime clip that turned out to be the final video from the group, this is the group at their most mature but still having a good time. It's a simple premise that captures the lighthearted rakishness that Tribe could still deliver even as their union was falling apart.
"I Left My Wallet In El Segundo" (1990)People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm'
For many, this was their first introduction to the quirky kids from Queens. Q-Tip tells the bizarre tale of a road trip gone awry, as the (then) quartet embarks on their travels on the paths of rhythm. An offbeat way to announce a group that would go on re-shape 90s hip-hop.
"Rumble In the Jungle" (1996)The Fugees ('When We Were Kings: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack')
A woefully underrated track that accompanied the acclaimed Muhammad Ali documentary When We Were Kings, the video features two of the 90s most visionary acts in the Fugees and ATCQ spitting verses in a boxing ring alongside Busta Rhymes and John Forte. A track that gets far too little spin and a video that captured a major moment in hip-hop.
"1nce Again" (1996)'Beats, Rhymes & Life'
Recalling their classic clip for "Check the Rhime," the video for this hit 1996 single featured the Native Tongues running around like the old days, ducking around the famed St. Albans laundromat/dry cleaners they'd featured in the "...Rhime" video of five years earlier.
"Bonita Applebum" (1990)'People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm'
A classic single that cemented Q-Tip as the ladies' man of quirky rap; "Bonite Applebum" has a video that's as charming as the lyric. With the guys bopping along and kicking some game to an assortment of beautiful young ladies.
"Can I Kick It?" (1990)People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm'
"Jazz (We've Got)/Buggin' Out" (1991)'The Low End Theory'
A video that perfectly captured the two sides of A Tribe Called Quest's early persona; the "artsy" is most prominent in the black-and-white, urban aesthetic of the first half; while the madcap technicolor cartoonishness of the 'Buggin' Out' coda adds some levity and goofiness. Quintessential ATCQ.
"Electric Relaxation" (1994)'Midnight Marauders'
One of Tribe's most definitive songs and one of their most definitive clips. The guys spit rhymes as they engage in every day NYC activities like cab rides and meeting up at a diner. Perfect in it's simplicity and a natural depiction of the laid-back vibe the group channeled so effortlessly.
'Check the Rhime' (1991)'The Low End Theory'
Maybe Tribe's most definitive single, the feel-good vibe of this video made it a fixture on shows like Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City in the early 1990s. The guys perform on the roof of a cleaners in their native Queens, and it just looks like the group--and the community--had a blast.
"Award Tour" (1993)'Midnight Marauders'
Another classic clip that features Tribe and their buddies De La Soul rhyming--this time framed inside a portrait; it became an MTV fixture in late 1993, helping to make the single Tribe's biggest crossover hit.
"Scenario" (1992)'The Low End Theory'
An iconic posse cut that featured an equally-memorable video, "Scenario" is one of Tribe's finest moments and, via his guest appearance as a member of Leaders of the New School, a breakout moment for Busta Rhymes. The Native Tonguers rap from inside a computer program in a video that features everybody from Spike Lee to Brand Nubian to Redman.