Jamaica, Queens icon Phife Dawg sat down with KarmaloopTV at the New York City studios recently, and we hijacked the interview with some questions of our own in between takes.
Check out the video above to hear what the Five Foot Assassin has to say about the current state of hip hop, the void left by Tupac and Biggie and who he’s rocking with from this next generation, before reading Phife’s take on ATCQ, his upcoming projects, a dream job as New York Knicks general manager, and the one item dude will not travel without.
You know this is coming, so we’ll get it out of the way – what’s good with A Tribe Called Quest at the mopment? We’ve seen the reunion shows, the documentary is receiving acclaim from peers and critics alike… does ATCQ feel comfortable recording together again as a unit?
Ali [Shaheed Muhammad] and Q-Tip are still residing in the Tri-State area, Jarobi is in Atlanta and I’m bi-coastal residing in Atlanta, but mainly in the Bay Area where my wife is from. We are a long way from [recording together again].
Your second solo album, Songs in the Key of Phife Volume 1: Cheryl’s Big Son (Elma’s Grandson), is due this year – what can we expect sonically, lyrically and aesthetically from you in 2011? Times have sure changed since ATCQ’s 1990 debut and your last solo LP in 2000…
[First is] my next project, Songs in tha’ Key of Phife: 8 is Enuff! Reason being, it’s been eight years since I’ve been in the booth, eight years recording and producing, eight years total going through health issues which had me not even thinking about music, and eight songs plus bonus cuts on the EP. Being that the rap industry has A.D.D., you can’t give them too much when you’ve been gone for a whole decade and change.
Cheryl’s Big Son (Elma’s Grandson), with 13 to 15 new songs, will follow on Smokin’ Needles Records – shopping for distribution as we speak!
After more than 20 years in the game, you and ATCQ are pioneers as far as jazz-influenced beats and conscious-yet-accessible lyrics go – have you found a chance to step back and realize the mark you all left on in the world of hip hop and has that affected the way you write and record now?
I emcee how I feel for the moment – I’ll always be influenced by Tribe but my EP and LP have a lot of different flavors! I’ll keep it vintage Tribe if Tribe decides to do another LP… which, in my heart, I’d love to do for the fans. They’ve been loyal to us for 13 years as if we never left. You would think we had the latest, hot album out now, or that we just dropped a smash single. We get crazy love on tour, in the U.K., U.S.A., etcetera… I humbly say “thank you!”
I know that you’re a big sports fan, basketball in particular – ignoring Karmaloop’s Boston roots for a moment (sorry ’bout the Knicks), how do you feel about this year’s playoffs?
I predicted Boston versus L.A. in the finals again, [but] that’s before Danny Ainge pressed the panic button and let [Kendrick] Perkins and Nate [Robinson] go to Oklahoma City for… [Jeff] Green and [Nenad] Krstić!? Green maybe, but Nenad? C’mon, Danny.
Right now I’m liking the Bulls, but [Carlos] Boozer has to step up. Rose is the MVP but he can’t – and shouldn’t – have to do it alone. Bulls are a few players away from winning a title, but the Eastern Conference is so suspect, who knows?
As for my Knicks… we need defense, a center and Jesus Christ at the point [laughs]. If I was general manager I’d get Chris Paul at point, and [Samuel] Dalembert of the Kings, DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers, Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies, or defensive MVP Dwight Howard as the big man – or trade Amar’e and a few pieces for Howard. I doubt we’ll be able to pull any of that off, except Dalembert. I like him because he just wants to crash the boards, block shots and take charges. That way the offense can go through Amar’e on the break and [Carmelo] when they set up the half court offense. ‘Melo can do it all, a Rip Hamilton or Kevin Martin would be nice at the two, unless we can get [Wilson] Chandler back in New York… I’d love [Raymond] Felton back if we couldn’t get CP3!
I just need Dumb’toni (Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni) to hold somebody accountable as far as playing defense is concerned, if not the whole team. If [he doesn't], he has to go. Bring back Jeff Van Gundy for all I care! I know he’ll coach defense.
We’re in the fashion industry, so we have to pose to you a hypothetical: you’re recording outside of the U.S. and customs says that all your gear was lost save for one item – what do you hope that one item is?
My Stewie from Family Guy lounge pants. I love them, they’re crazy comfy!
Check Phife on Facebook and be sure to check out Michael Rappaport’s ATCQ documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest in a city near you after the official July 8th premiere.