Jazz Memoriam: Phife Dawg

One of the things that distinguished A Tribe Called Quest from other rap groups, apart from the multi-layered cleverness of their lyrics, was their love of jazz. Some of this came out in the lyrics:

Back in the days when I was a teenager
Before I had status and before I had a pager
You could find the Abstract listening to hip hop
My pops used to say, it reminded him of Bebop
I said, well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles
Way that Bobby Brown is just amping like Michael


More importantly, it appeared in their choice of samples. Their song, “We’ve Got Jazz” sampled from “Green Dolphin Street, and here’s “Electric Relaxation,” which samples from Ronnie Foster’s somewhat obscure organ groove Mystic Brew, below.

Incidentally, and this is true- in a teacher skit for a middle school talent show, I did once jump onto a table and perform a slightly bowdlerized version of Phyfe’s initial lyrics to this song, suitably amended to reflect my name and ancestry:

I like ’em brown yellow Puerto Rican or Haitian,

My name is Phyfe Dawg from the Zulu Nation.



And here’s the Ronnie Foster organ groove that it’s based on:


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