Phife Dawgs ‘Forever’ – Rolling Stone

Any posthumous album is inherently haunting the sound of ghosts on wax forever hovering in a state between unfinished project and final footage. But in the case of Phife Dawg, who died in 2016 atAt age 45 from diabetes complications, this purgatory sensation feels particularly cruel. At the time of his death, the rapper born Malik Taylor was reunited – albeit flimsy – with New York hip-hop icons A Tribe Called Quest. That reunion led to Tribe’s last album, The Excellent We have it from here… Thank you 4 Your service, released in late 2016, eight months after Phife’s death.

Listen to We have it from here, it is clear that Phife Dawg still had plenty to offer. In fact, the celebrated rapper had spent his last decade shaping a treasure trove of unpublished rhymes into what he hoped would be a follow-up to his only solo album, the 2000s Ventilation: Da LP. It was never completed, but his family – along with business and musical collaborator Dion Liverpool – has finally finished the job with Foreverarriving six years to the day he died.

Unlike other posthumous albums, where estates and family members use guesswork and vague guideposts to determine what the artist wanted, in this case Phife, as Liverpool noted in a recent interview, left “a lot of drawings and tracks. “Detailed notebooks included not only lyrics and song ideas, but also names of manufacturers and guest stars and other specific details. Liverpool estimated that two-thirds of the album was either finished or almost finished before he even stepped in.

Forever, which boasts appearances by Phife’s ATCQ partner Q-Tip, as well Busta Rhymes, Redman, Rapsody and De la Souls Maseo and production before 9th Wonder and Nottz, exists in an alternative hip-hop universe where the genre stopped after the Soulquarians broke up in the early 2000s. The spirit of Phife’s friend and collaborator J Dilla weaves almost as large as Phife itself; the late hip-hop visionary who died in 2006 produced the lyrically deft “Nutshell, Pt. 2, “and Dilla-acolytes is present and mimics his mood (see Potatohead People-produced “French Kiss Trois”, starring Dilla’s brother Illa J). On the cool “Dear Dilla, ”Phife J praises J Dilla in the verse, while Q-Tip uses the chorus to do the same to Phife.

Phife Dawg was always, among many other things, an indispensable Golden Age nostalgic, and on Forever he can often be heard reminding on what he considered the heyday of hip hop. “Wow Factor” shouts pioneers like Big Daddy Kane, Rakim and Boogie Down Productions. “I’m the seventies baby,” he rhymes. “Reppin ‘ hip hop to the nineties. “But it is his calls to the future that end up being the most inadvertently fervent. “Can’t wait to help my unborn child read their first book,” he rhymes with “Fallback.” “Or Dad’s little girl asks, ‘Dad, what’s a hook?’ ”

Forever can be an emotionally brutal listening. Opens the “Cheryl’s Big Son” features a gripping cassette recording of Phife as a child, while a spoken word poem from his mother Cheryl Boyce-Taylor anchors “Round Irving High School” (“Phife was the blues, hip-hop and hot jazz,” she sings). But it’s albums closer “Forever” that will constantly stand out as a gut-punch for fans of quick rapper. Phife recorded the verse just three days before his death, reviewing his story with A Tribe Called Quest – “four brothers with the microphone and a dream” – and avoiding their delicate past in favor of an olive branch: “I love you, fuck, true spit, all facts / Deep in my soul I think what will be must be / Requiem for a Tribe. “

To everyone who saw the group Beats, rhymes and life documentary with a deep pain of regret and grief, it is both hard and admirable to hear lines from “Forever” like “If I could do it all over again / I would sit down with my friend /There was no reason for this shit to end. “ Forever, we both hear a middle-aged man look back on his successes and failures both personally and professionally, and an artist who unconsciously confronts mortality and attempts to create peace eventually.

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