R.I.P. Malik Izaak Taylor (1970-2016)
Lou Reed came up with the famous bass lick from “Can I Kick It”– that straightforward, drawn out, impossibly smooth dunn-dun-dunnn-duuunnnn-dun-dunn. It’s the backbone of “Walk On The Wild Side”, the gem from his sophomore album Transformer. I heard “Walk On The Wild Side” when I was too young to remember anything he said, what the song was, or why one of its female characters had a dick.
When I was sixteen I bought the People’s Instinctive Travels and The Paths Of Rhythm CD and the first song I listened to, fell in love with and memorized, was “Can I Kick It.” That same baseline popped up again, I remember, but felt different. It was no longer pertinent to shady dealings and prostitutes and drugs and New York. Now it was being played amongst Slurpees and Donairs and my shitty Grand-Am with friends riding shotgun. I wasn’t peering into a seedy gutter anymore. I was instead invited to a block party that loved to have me. I was allowed to rap along, to bounce and goof around. I was encouraged to have fun as Phife Dawg flowed in layers.
Phife is the archetype for Number 2’s that aren’t to be overshadowed by their numerical predecessor. He kept Tribe street when Q-Tip became to philosophical,grounded them when Tip was lost in the clouds. He’s the blueprint for Big Boi, or Rich Homie Quan, Talib Kweli, Malice, Vordul Mega or any straight man since.
A Tribe Called Quest were from New York, like Reed, and were landmarks in their respective genres, like Reed. DMX or Death Grips is as far on the wild side as I tend to get, so I can’t relate to Lou Reed as well. But when Phife asked a teenage me if I could kick it, to enjoy timelessness, I could. I can relate to the poem sayer, studio conveyer, breath of fresh air that was Phife Dawg because his music came from the pureness of enjoyability. It’s not hard to relate to music made out of pure pleasure for pure pleasure.
The Five Foot Assassin passed away last night. He was 45. May he rest in Power.