The Rundown: Heaven’s Hip Hop Mixtape

Above: Malik Taylor, rapper known as Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, in 2011
Above: Malik Taylor, rapper known as Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, in 2011

The world woke up Wednesday morning to the news that Malik Taylor, better known as Phife Dawg from the legendary group A Tribe Called Quest, had passed after a lifelong battle with diabetes. Taylor was 45.

Sadly, Phife is just another member of the hip hop community to exit too early. In his memory and the memory of those he joins in the next life, today’s rundown celebrates the amazing music left behind by our dearly departed.

And for the record, J Dilla is the producer on this joint.

RIP Phife.

Buggin’ Out – A Tribe Called Quest (Phife Dawg)

Here’s what I said about this track when running down the best of Tribe late last year:

If “Excursion” was a showcase of what Q-Tip did so well on the mic, this was Phife’s moment in the sun to show that he was an equal to “The Abstract” and not the Boy Wonder to his Dark Knight. “Yo – microphone check, one-two, what is this?” is still one of those opening lines that hip hop heads would know right away like if  they were sitting in the park playing “Name the song” like Sid and Dre in Brown Sugar.

Boyz-N-Tha-Hood – Eazy E

“The Godfather of Gangsta Rap” passed on March 26, 1995 due to complications from AIDS, but his legacy lives on through the work of N.W.A., the countless acts he influenced and shepherded and tracks like this, that still bang today.

Mass Appeal – Gang Starr (Guru)

One half of the dynamic duo Gang Starr with super-producer DJ Premier, Guru brought a different flow to the table and doesn’t get enough credit for his deftness on the mic.

California Love – 2Pac

More than two decades later, this song still kicks and shows more of the playful side of Tupac Shakur, the agile, intelligent, gifted artist who was murdered less than a year after this instant and lasting hit was released. He was 25.

Juicy – The Notorious B.I.G.

Everybody has their personal favourite Biggie track and this is mine because it was the first one I heard and I was hooked from there. Taken from this world in a still unsolved shooting at the age of 24, Christopher Wallace is still considered one of the greatest MCs of all-time.

Twinz – Big Punisher

Known most for his playful club hit “Still Not a Player,” this was my Big Pun jam because it showed that the big man from the Boogie Down was dexterous on the microphone and as good or better than many of his contemporaries.

Got Your Money – Ol’ Dirty Bastard

The wild card of the Wu-Tang Clan, “Dirt McGirt” died of an accidental drug overdose two days before his 36th birthday. A lovable misfit in the hip hop community, there is no way to put on this track and not start dancing.

Now That We Found Love – Heavy D

An often overlooked MC from hip hops climb towards the mainstream, “Waterbed Heav” not only had a strong career of his own, but he was influential in the careers of artists like Jodeci and Soul for Real and is the one that convince Andre Harrell to give some kid named Sean Combs his first opportunity in the music business.

Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka – Boot Camp Clik (Sean Price)

Price broke through under the name Ruckus as one half of the tandem known as Heltah Skeltah, part of the Brooklyn-based Boot Camp Clik that included Buckshot, Smif-N-Wessun and O.G.C. He later had a standout solo career before passing in his sleep at the age of 43.

Sure Shot – Beastie Boys (MCA/Adam Yauch)

The Beasties were a group I latched onto early being that I was a suburn white kid that was hooked on rap, but didn’t have a lot of early artists I could identify with. Over a 20-year career, the pushed boundries, stayed creative and consistently delivered great music. Yauch succumb to his battle with cancer on May 4, 2007 at the age of 47.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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