By: Tameka Jackson
“Back in the days on the boulevard of Linden, we used to kick routines and presence was fittin,” lyrics made famous by A Tribe Called Quest.
Linden Boulevard will never forget Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor. On Nov. 19, at the intersection of Linden Boulevard and 192nd street, where the group A Tribe Called Quest shot their 1991 classic Check The Rime, officials held an uplifting ceremony for the street name change. The name change came one day before what would have been Phife`s 46th birthday.
Taylor was born Nov. 20, 1970 in St. Albans, Queens. He was a member of the rap group A Tribe Called Quest, along with his High School classmates Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed.
In 1991 A Tribe Called Quest released their second album The Low End Theory. Phife referred to himself as “the Five-Foot Assassin,” rapping about social and political issues. In 1998 after the third album the group disbanded after Phife was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes mellitus a few years before. Phife passed away unexpectedly on March 22, 2016 due to diabetes related complications.
Attendees of the ceremony included A Tribe Called Quest co-members Q-Tip and Jarobi White. Extended Tribe family included Busta Rhymes, Consequence, rapper Cormega, Hot 97 and ESPN radio personality Peter Rosenberg, city government officials and members of Taylor’s family. Hundreds of excited fans crowded the corner holding signs, wearing merchandise from Tribe’s pop-up shop in New York City from the previous weekend, and rapping along to the group’s lyrics. So many fans filled the street to take part in this historic moment.
At the ceremony Jarboi White gave a speech before the unveiling of the street sign.
“This street name change is a part of history,” said White. “When people walk by they will recognize this monument.”
When Jarboi White and Q-Tip talked the crowd listened, with open ears and hearts. Many grew up on the music. Some even walked the same corners they did. Many couldn’t believe they were standing there and taking part in this history. “It was important for me to be there, I’ve had a connection with them since I was 7 or 8,” said Atria Gray, a fan who used to reside in Springfield Gardens, Queens.
After a 20-year hiatus, A Tribe Called Quest released an album titled We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service. This was the album fans had been waiting for some time. The album featured verses from Phife, recorded before his passing. Their album has become number one in America, their first in 20 years.
Earlier this year, muralist Vince Ballentine painted a mural depicting the faces of the rappers and featuring the words, “A Tribe Called Quest Represent, Represent,” on the side of Nu-Clear Cleaners.
Phife’s wife Deisha Head Taylor, explained that the location was very dear to her husband’s heart. “This is a perfect representation of who Malik was, and what Queens meant to him” said Taylor. “Whenever he mentioned Queens, Linden Boulevard at 192, was a focal point of reference. I am certain he would be pleased with having it renamed in his honor.”