Phife Dawg is not an exceptionally skilled MC, at least not in the way we think of it now, measured against the standards of rappers like Jay-Z or Eminem. There’s nothing exceptional about his rhyme construction, he usually operates in 4/4 time using hard rhymes (meaning the words actually rhyme, he hasn’t altered them with his speech to stretch or slur them into rhyming).
But as the man once said in an interview I still remember from Muchmusic’s Rap City 20 years ago, rhyming ‘cat’ with ‘mat’ does not equal ‘dope emcee.’
What Phife lacked in grammatical complexity, he more than made up for in creativity and sheer charisma. When you first start exploring Tribe’s music, it’s easy to miss the function Phifey serves to the group. He didn’t produce, as far as we know, and Tip’s a bit flashier in his wordplay. But Phife balanced Tip’s smoothed out intellectualism with the gritty braggadocio of the streets. He was fun! And he could surprise you; his ‘basic’ rhymes display more creativity than a lot of rappers catching ink today.
So to start Tuesday, we pay tribute to the mad genius of the Diggy Dawg with ten of my favourite lyrics, in no particular order.
1. Now which MC thinks that he’s fucking with this here? / Word to Queens I keep shit hot like a knish, yeah! [Step It Up]
2. Microphone c heck one, two, what is this? / The five-foot assassin with the roughneck business. [Buggin’ Out]
3. Hip-hop scholar since being knee-high to a duck, / the height of Muggsy Bogues, complexion of a hockey puck. [Steve Biko]
4. I like my beats harder than two day old shits / steady eating booty MCs like cheese grits. [Oh My God]
5. Mr. Energetic, who me sound pathetic? / When’s the last time you heard a funky diabetic? [Oh My God]
6. Let me hit from the back girl, I won’t catch a hernia. / Bust off on your couch, now you got Seaman’s Furniture. [Electric Relaxation]
7. Come off my stage before I grab your neck and hammer ya / wet you like poonanny, then dry you like Canada. [Mind Power]
8. I’m all that and then some, tall dark and handsome / bust a nut inside your eye, to show you where I come from. [Scenario] [ASIDE: Phife deliberately volunteered to go first on this legendary posse cut, since he knew DJs usually only played the first couple minutes of a track, thus guaranteeing his verse would always get bumped in the club. Genius!]
9. Can’t forget the De La, the true originality / and if I ever went solo my favourite MC would be me. [Clap Your Hands]
10. So do like Michael Jackson and remember the time / put on your dancing shoes or something cause you sure can’t rhyme. [Scenario (Remix)]
Did I get your favourite? What did I miss? This is what comments are for, friends.