Kanye West: ‘Phife Dawg Made It OK for Me to Be Me’
Kanye West thanked late rapper Phife Dawg for “raising” him at a memorial service for the A Tribe Called Quest star on Tuesday night.
Phife Dawg, real name Malik Izaak Taylor, died last month after a series of health issues. Hundreds of friends, family members and fans joined together to remember the musician at New York’s Apollo Theater, with familiar faces at the four-hour service including West, Busta Rhymes and Andre 3000.
As well as including incredibly moving eulogies from some of Taylor’s closest friends, the event also served as a tribute concert, with performances from stars including D’Angelo, backed by The Roots, Kelly Price, The Roots frontman Black Thought and KRS-One, joined by hip-hop legends Kid Capri, Grandmaster Flash, Teddy Ted and Special K.
Among the eulogies was a speech from West, who has been a long time fan of A Tribe Called Quest and asked the group to open for his 2013 Yeezus tour.
“I might say something wrong as always, but I thought it’d be more wrong not to say nothing,” he began, before revealing that the group’s record The Low End Theory was the first album he had ever purchased.
“I was sitting here thinking about how much these people inspire me and how powerful the influence of the music was,” he told the crowd. “How it meant everything. It is everything. Music was stolen from us and corporatized and anybody that spoke up was demonized. Anything I ever did wrong, blame Tip and Phife ’cause y’all raised me.”
Earlier in the evening, radio DJ Peter Rosenberg had likened the music of A Tribe Called Quest and Led Zeppelin. But West insisted he wanted Taylor to be remembered in his own right, and not compared to another musical legend. He added that he wouldn’t be who he is today if it wasn’t for Taylor and A Tribe Called Quest.
“Y’all made it okay in a city of Al Capone – number one murder capital city – for me to be me,” he said. “Tribe made Kanye West. Made the kid with the pink Polo. Made it so I could dress funny. I’m not sorry if I said something wrong.”
West concluded by telling the crowd he was hopeful that Taylor would be remembered with a fitting tribute at next year’s Grammy Awards, but doesn’t think this will actually happen.
“I’m picturing the Grammys right now, it’s going to be a real quick (tribute),” he said. “Short, like when the Michael Jackson joint was short. Or when you get to Michael Jackson status, somebody say, “Aw, you crazy ’cause you said the truth out loud.” You get in trouble for the truth.
“Honour, man. They gotta honour us; honour what hip-hop is. I love y’all and I’m not sorry. Rest in Peace to Phife Dawg.”