Phife Dawg fans honor late rapper at St. Albans Park memorial

By Madina Toure

Despite the rainy weather, nearly 200 fans of the late Phife Dawg, a member of renowned hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, braved the rain and came out to a public memorial hosted by the group for the musician at St. Albans Memorial Park Monday morning.

Malik Taylor, known by his stage name Phife Dawg, died March 22 in California at the age of 45 due to complications from diabetes. He was raised in St. Albans.

The first 200 fans who arrived at the memorial received a Phife Dawg T-shirt as well as a ticket to attend an invite-only tribute concert for the musician at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem Tuesday. Fans mostly chatted and shared their support for Phife Dawg and A Tribe Called Quest.

Andres Titus, known by his stage name Dres, one-half of hip-hop duo Black Sheep from Queens that started in the 1990s, had known Phife Dawg since 1989.

“He was just a beautiful soul, just a dope (cool) person and something that I really saw in him very early in our relationship is that he had a moral compass,” Titus said. “He was one of the guys that definitely walked on the right side of humanity whereas a lot of times when you’re young, you’re trying to find yourself, you’re willing to do a lot of dumb things.”

Two hours after the public memorial kicked off, the processional for Phife Dawg’s funeral drove by the park along Sayres Avenue and 172nd Street. Jarobi White, an honorary member of the group, waved at fans while in a car during the processional.

A group of Phife Dawg’s friends who grew up with him in St. Albans also made an appearance at the memorial. St. Albans resident Carleene Cannon, 48, had known Phife Dawg since he was around 9 years old. She also knew Jarobi White.

“As we got older and as A Tribe Called Quest became more of an entity, with everybody just grooving to the music, he would come off the road and I would go visit him at his grandmother’s house…He gave me my copy of ‘Low End Theory’ (second album) and leaked it,” Cannon said. “And my son’s name is Jaden Malik Lake.”

There are currently two efforts underway to honor the singer and the group. One calls for Linden Boulevard between 192nd and 193rd streets to be co-named A Tribe Called Quest Boulevard while the other calls for St. Albans Park to be renamed “Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Park.”

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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