I had the pleasure of interviewing the legendary Phife Dawg from one of the illest Hip-Hop groups, A Tribe Called Quest recently. The 5 foot assassin will be performing in London this November, at the world famous Jazz Cafe in association with the Spin Doctor.
Phife: Well it’s usually a very good crowd. I’ve had no complaints. I’ve been out there a few times.
Drez: Nice. Ok., so you’ve been in the game a long time now. What advice do you have for up and coming emcees?
Phife: You gotta be yourself, because when it comes to Hip-Hop, people don’t forget nothing, and if you come across as a fake, they’ll always remember you for that. So, it’s always best to be yourself.
Phife: J Cole, Kendrick, Joey Badass, there’s definately a couple out there.
Drez: What is it about these cats that do it for you?
Phife: They are original, they’re themselves, you know what I’m saying. They’re not piggy backing off what the next man is doing. Like J Cole is a dope emcee, he does his own beats too. You don’t see that a lot now.
Drez: That’s true and spot on brother. If we take it to back in the day, who were your influences in the Hip-Hop world when you were growing up?
Phife: KRS One, Big Daddy Kane, Gang Starr, Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe D, LL Cool J, EPMD, RUN DMC, the list goes on.
Drez: I hear you. A lot of heads can relate to those names. So what’s your favourite Tribe album and why?
Phife: ‘Low end theory’ cos that was like the do or die album. ‘Peoples instinctive’ did good, but that pretty much kicked the door in. By the time we did ‘Low end theory’ it was a must we blow the door off the hinges, so to speak. That basically set us on our way.
Drez: So no comeback album planned?
Drez: What is your biggest musical regret?
Phife: It will have to be Tribe breaking up.
Phife: Yes, that’s definitely the biggest regret cos there’s no reason why we still shouldn’t be making music, but I mean all good things come to an end. Just have to take it as it comes.
Phife: Damm, that’s a good question. I wish Tribe could have done a song with RUN DMC. That would have been ill.
Drez: That would have been dope. When I thought of that question, Ice Cube and Phife Dwag popped up in my head, could you have seen that collab working back in the day?
Phife: My wife would have loved it cos she’s a big Ice Cube fan (chuckles) I could of see it happening, but I don’t think people would expect it, as there was like 2/3 others in the group. He rhymed hard back in the day, and so I couldn’t come out and say f you and so and so, even though I talk like that. I had to think about the rest of the group too.
Drez: What do you think makes A Tribe Called Quest so special to Hip-Hop heads, and music fans in general?
Phife: What I will say is, we haven’t done anything in so long, and they still treat us like we have the newest material out right now. That’s nothing but a blessing and so to that I humbly say thank you. We’re just really, really thankful. Hopefully they’ll support our solo endeavours as well.
Phife: Yeah, I’m working on an album called ‘MuttymorPHosis’. Imma drop an EP first entitled ‘GIVE THANKS’.
Drez: Any guest features, any producers on the album?
Phife: I’ll mention the producers. 9th Wonder is doing a couple of tracks. I did a couple of joints myself, and Ali Shaheed too. We got some things in the works.
Drez: Talking of producers, who’s a favourite producer of yours?
Phife: Pete Rock is a great producer, Hi-Tek is dope, Preemo would be dope to work with. He’s always been one of favourites, and J Dilla.
Drez: Props to J Dilla, you’ve bigged him up in the past and will continue to do so. How special was he?
Phife: I’ve never seen a dude be so humble, and make a beat quicker than anybody I’ve seen in my whole life. He’ll just wake up and make a beat, and it was that same process everyday; wake up, eat breakfast, go record shopping for couple of hours, come back home and make twenty beats in one day. He was incredible.
Drez: I’m gonna flip it slightly and talk about your passion for sports. I know you’re a big fan. Who do follow when it comes to basketball, football etc?
Phife: For football, it’s the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles. For basketball, the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. Baseball will always be the Yankees.
Drez: Was there ever a chance of you getting into sports before picking up the mic?
Phife: I played High School, University football. I played Varsity basketball at High School, but I’ve always wanted to be a commentator, broadcastor, or an NBA analyser.
I’m a North Carolina basketball College fan, and always wanted to go to that Uni and play basketball. But as everyone knows, I’ll only like 5ft 3. I didn’t grow much, and there’s not a lot of 5ft basketball players making a lot of money right now. So I gave that up quick.
I’m actually working on my own sports network/sports podcast right now.
Phife: That’s right. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Too be honest, I love sports more than music actually.
Drez: Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your future projects, and seeing you perform out here in London. Peace