HHS: It’s kind of impossible for me to not touch on your past, A Tribe Called Quest. On the last album, The Love Movement, where were each of you’ll as far as being a unit for the future?
Phife: “Definitely not, everybody was spread out, doing their own thing already. The vibe was kinda… Well, I truly believe Ali was ready to do his thing, I was definitely ready to do my thing and Tip to do his. But the way it came about was kind of sneaky and wack.”
HHS: Now was this from one particular incident that lead to this distancing from each other, or just over time gradually?
Phife: “Gradually it got to that stage. I figured we was bigger than that. If cats wanted to do their thing, let’s do our thing. I was the first one that actually uttered anything about doing a solo project ever. I basically thought, what Wu Tang set out and did. Everybody sweeping my ideas under the rug, like, Phife don’t count….. I guess they felt like I was trying to break
up the group which was definitely not the case. But it all started one day when there was a rumor, that Tip said he wanted to do a solo album, so it kind of went haywire after that. Tip don’t need Tribe no more, at least the media was looking at it as such, but I don’t think he said that though. This started back like in 1996 or so… Really, it started going downhill right after Midnight Marauders came out.”
HHS: It’s clear to see that amongst the three of you, you would always stay extremely close to Tribe’s B-Boy stance, while the others would take a different direction. How did you see things playing out, once you went separate ways?
Phife: “First and foremost, with Ali now, he’s always been a musician first. Yeah, he was our DJ, but he was always a musician first. He taught himself how to play the guitar, so I never looked at Ali just as hip hop, so I respected what he’s doing now. Q-Tip. He’s a dope emcee. He’s much doper than what he put out! But I think…. Well, you give the people what they want, everybody wanna get jigged out, everybody wanna dance, it’s all gravy ’cause that’s what’s gonna put food in your mouth and clothes on your back, but I always feel like DJ Quik’s album title says, “Balance & Options.” I think he (Q-Tip) opted to just reach out and just do a bunch of whatever. Figured everybody was gonna come to it, all the chicks was gonna run to it. And he won to a certain extent but I think he woulda won even more if he had a nice variety. I bought the tape and CD, ’cause I’m ah support, ’cause it’s still bredren regardless. But, I was kinda like DAMN DUKE! I just feel like if he woulda kept it real with his peoples, you would have won period. But he just went off and did….”
HHS: What about you though, your project. What’s Phife’s direction like?
Phife: “I’m very aware of the music around me. I’m a reggae head, I’m a Calypsonian head, I’m into Rock every now and then, keep in touch with those videos on MTV, and I’m one of those kids that came from the Disco era, like the late 70′s throughout the 80′s. I’m into Shalamar, the Isley’s, the OJ’s and Chic. The cats that was on Sound Of Los Angeles Recordings (SOLAR) like D-Train, Sister Sledge. That was Nile Rogers and he also did B-52′s so you know he was everywhere. The only time I listen to hip hop, is when a new Common, De La or Mos Def or something of that nature gonna drop. It’s something I’m looking forward to. Mobb Deep, Outkast or on the old school tip, KRS, Kane, yuhknowhati’msayin’! Mostly man, I just sit back with the wifey and just R&B it. Teddy Pendergrass, Tone Toni Tony, D’Angelo.”
HHS: Cool. What’s your observation of yourself based on the music industry’s perception?
Phife: “The industry really and truly don’t think Phife got skills. That’s how I look at it. You have certain artists that know better, but the rumor was throughout the industry, if anybody was gonna do a solo album from Tribe, it was supposed to be Q-Tip. And rightfully so, if they felt that way, because like I said, I kinda shot myself in the foot by playing the background, chillin’. I kicked my verse when I had to kick my verse, but didn’t do any combining with other artists along the way, or not to many joint efforts, just a few here and there.”
HHS: But what about TLC, on Crazy Sexy Cool?
Phife: “Yeah, but that was just an Intro..(laughs) One of the illest checks I ever received though! I was like WOOOOOW! I need to rhyme with them again, but September 26th you will know. Don’t think it happened overnight because it’s always been this way. I always felt like, OK, Tip is Michael Jackson, me and Ali is Tito and Jermaine, we gonna hold it down for him. You the man, do your thing, we gonna back you up. But honestly, I have a problem with that… I ain’t nobody’s chauffeur or gofer or none of that… Look, like Wu Tang, they had a game plan, they went out and handled their business. Like eight of them at least have solo albums, and they’re about to do their third joint effort TOGETHER. EPMD: K-Solo, Keith Murray, Redman, Das Efx. All of them shined at one time or another, Reggie still shining. They put their people on! De La Soul: Mos Def came out of that, that’s how I look at it. Who the fuck has come from Tribe? Who the hell has come out of Tribe? No one. And that’s because there’s a lot of selfishness going on. Cat’s ain’t want other cats to shine! One particular cat really. I won’t even say cats, just one.”
HHS: This one cat you’re speaking about, was it solely on this cat, or was their also outside pressure from the label, management, peers, etc?
Phife: “The one cat from the group and certain people from management at the time yes. ‘Cause they used to have little meetings behind my back on some, shhshhhshshshshhshh.” (starts dipping his head and whispering noises in a cat-frantic action, then continues to mimic them) “If Phife gets to do this, I ain’t doing thisâ€¦dadadaadadadaadada. Sweep my ideas under the rug, like Phife don’t count, fuck’em! But I stuck it out, I just kept thinking TRIBE TRIBE TRIBE TRIBEâ€¦ That’s the one of the reasons I moved to Atlanta too, just to have a piece of mind. I’ll meet you dudes when we gotta do studio work and when we go on the road. But my whole problem was, I went out there and I really didn’t come up with a plan B. I just went out there on some old, FUCK EVERYBODY shit! That was my problem.”
HHS: Sex appeal seemed to be Q-Tip’s strong point as a solo artist, whilst your strong points will most likely fall into what category?
Phife: “I’m musically inclined all the way through. I love melody, I love banging beats and I can rhyme my ass off, period point-blank. But then I can flip the script and get on some smooth shit, if I like. I can spit conscious lyrics if I like it, I can spit slackness if I want. I go through different vibes. That’s me, I’m Scorpion. My album is always gonna have variation, just like Tribe albums had variation. Now it’s time for muthafuckers to appreciate Phife being Phife, Phife being Muddy Ranks. This is me right here. Before, I always used to hold back, always representing the others of the group.”
HHS: Do you think they had the same mind-set, for the group first and not as individuals?
Phife: “Well, that’s what was said at least. I know Ali did, but Tip is the type of dude, I know he means well, but sometimes you know, I don’t think he even notices some of the things he does sometimes. Very individualistic. Like I said, we was always a team, but after a while it seem like he was always giving me his ass to kiss! It’s like, hold up, I’ll be what Vinnie is to Treach, or what Spliff is to Busta Rhymes, but don’t give me your ass to kiss! I could do a solo album with no fucking problem, don’t act like I’m supposed to be tying your shoes and shit!” (Vents into the mimicking stance again) “Don’t do this Phife! Don’t do that Phife!”
Now he’s open and off to the races! Vents continuously in a furious rampage, but you will no doubt be able to peep the rest (this time to music) on his solo debut, appropriately titled, Ventilation.
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