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Photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez
Fans hold up signs at Phife Dawg street renaming in St. Albans
By Gina Martinez

More than 500 people gathered outside of Nu Clean cleaners in St. Albans Saturday for the street renaming in honor of the late A Tribe Called Quest rapper, Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor. The site at 192nd Street and Linden Boulevard is now also Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor Way.

The atmosphere was positive and celebratory as fans sang along to the group’s classic songs while holding up signs and album art. A large portion of the fans were from St. Albans, with others came from all over the city. There was even a couple who drove all the way from Indiana to make it to the event.

A Tribe Called Quest is widely known as one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time. The rap group began in 1985 in St. Albans, with its four original members Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. The group became incredibly successful after the release of their debut album ‘People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm’ in 1990. Phife Dawg was a stand-out member, known for his great lyricism. Taylor died in March of kidney failure. He had suffered from type-2 diabetes since the 1990s even referring to himself in “Oh My God”as a “funky diabetic” His condition worsened through the years and he received a kidney transplant from his wife in 2008.

The event was a huge celebration of Taylor’s life.

White addressed the crowd telling them that they were not there by chance and that it was all divine. He said it was no coincidence that after 18 years with no album, their latest EP debuted at No. 1. In “We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service,” Phife Dawg makes posthumous appearances. He also said the surprisingly good weather meant all was in their favor. Rappers Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes also addressed the crowd, telling stories of their upbringing in St. Albans and how it shaped who they are today. Taylor’s mother, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, told childhood stories about Taylor and how he was a mischievous child who also enjoyed going to church. In addition to the tributes, poetry was recited in Taylor’s honor.

The street renaming came one day before Taylor’s birthday, Nov. 20. He would have been 46 years old.

At the event were former friends who knew Taylor. Milt Shake, a former dancer who had photos of performing at Syracuse University, thought it was amazing to see St. Albans’ own be honored.

“It means a lot to us,” he said, “especially for those who grew up in St. Albans and love hip hop. It’s amazing to see one of us make it like this.”

Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) was instrumental in getting the street renamed.

“It is an honor to be able to pay tribute to Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor and A Tribe Called Quest,” Miller said. “They have continued the incredible musical culture of southeast Queens with a message through hip hop that transcended a generation, while also representing us with the dignity and respect as international ambassadors. They never forgot where they came from, and now all that pass by will know of Phife’s Tribes and their contributions to American culture.”

He added, “I would like to thank the Taylor family, Q-Tip and Jarobi White, and the community for helping us to celebrate this legacy.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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