Phife Dawg at Club Red, 6/22/12
Photos by Benjamin Leatherman A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg at Club Red last night.
Friday, June 22
If there was one point that was made clear in last year's documentary Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, its that the members of the influential hip-hop group won't be staging a reunion anytime soon.
Although Q-Tip is on (relatively) cordial terms with Phife Dawg these days, despite all the drama depicted in Michael Rapaport's award-winning doc, he's been plenty busy these days acting in movies, performing at festivals alongside Kanye and Busta Rhymes, and prepping his latest solo album The Last Zulu
The upside of this situation, however, is that Tribe fans get to seemingly fill Q-Tip's role during Phife Dawg's performances, much like they did last night at Club Red in Tempe. The downside, however, is that it produced a pretty uneven concert experience
A crowd of hundred's roared when the pride and joy of Linden Avenue in Brooklyn stepped onstage after midnight at the Tempe music with a white towel on his head. For those who've never seen the hip-hop artist live and in person before, the whole "five-foot assassin" isn't just some shtick, as he's a relatively diminutive cat. In fact, while standing on Club Red's stage he was barely taller than the crowd in front of him.
A majority of Phife's 40-minute headlining set consisted of songs from A Tribe Called Quest's discography, with a few of his solo songs scattered in between. So after dissing on the Arizona heat ("Y'all are crazy, its really hot here"), he enlisted the audience's help in filling in for the absent Q-Tip on numerous songs like "Buggin' Out" and "Can I Kick It?"
"Shaheed's not here, Tip's not here, so I need y'all to help with the lyrics," he stated. "'Cause I may not remember 'em all."
Phife Dawg and DJ Rasta Roots.
And the crowd responded by belting out A Tribe Called Quest's potent call-and-response lyrics as best they could (as did Phife's backing DJ Rasta Roots). While it worked on such songs as "Butter," other times it resulted in a chaotic mess. For instance, during Phife's performance of ATCQ's biggest hit "Check the Rhime," probably the most eagerly-awaited song of the night, the cheeky interplay of Phife and Tip wasn't easy to reproduce when the audience couldn't keep up with the rapping or mumbled through the lyrics.