HipHopDX: ATCQ Producer Starita On Recording “Dis Generation” & Phife Dawg’s Last Song

ATCQ Producer Starita On Recording "Dis Generation" & Phife Dawg's Last Song

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Bay Area-based producer Starita has always dreamt of collaborating with A Tribe Called Quest. While working at a record store in Jackson, Mississippi, he stumbled across 1993’s Midnight Marauders and thought to himself, “Oh my god, this is it.” From there, the flood gates opened and he dove head first into Hip Hop.

In 1996, he decided to attend engineering school to learn how to produce music, which eventually led the Grammy Award-winning producer to Berkeley’s Fantasy Studios 10 years later.

Holed up at the production board, he sat with Phife Dawg working on ATCQ’s final album, We got it from Here … Thank You For Your service. They wrapped up work on “Dis Generation” on Sunday (March 20).

Phife would pass away two days later on March 22, 2016. According to Starita, Phife almost had a sixth sense that his time on earth was soon coming to an end.

In a green room upstairs at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco during the Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders event last month, Starita recalls those last days.


Phife Dawg’s Mother & Wife Speak On Life & Loss During UnderCover Presents’ Tribe Tribute

Phife Dawg's Mother & Wife Speak On Life & Loss During UnderCover Presents' Tribe Tribute

The sold-out crowd was gathered to watch over 100 Bay Area musicians recreate A Tribe Called Quest’s 1993 classic, Midnight Marauders, and honor the life of the late Tribe luminary as part of the A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders event.

Spearheaded by non-profit UnderCover Presents, the tribute event seamlessly weaved together a cornucopia of musical genres — from Colombian and Indian to New Orleans brass and straight up rock-n-roll. Of course, the thread tying it all together was firmly rooted in Hip Hop. 

Phife Dawg’s mother, esteemed poet Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, and Phife’s widow, Deisha Head-Taylor, were on hand to witness the City of Oakland proclaim May 17 “Phife Dawg Day” as well as revel in the entire performance.

Speaking with HipHopDX, Deisha made it clear the pain of losing Phife is still raw and when the grief is all too consuming, that’s when she’ll visit his Instagram account or old text messages.

“I laugh,” she told DX. “Yeah, it warms my heart to see and remember who he was and what he represented. His antics and just his whole character was just amazing and just funny at times. I smile.”

But there are days when it feels like she’s living in the Twilight Zone. Phife was only 45 when he passed away on March 22, 2016 and nothing could’ve prepare Deisha for the profound loss.

“To be honest, it’s still hard,” she admitted. “It’s still surreal, unreal, and I still have moments where I have emotional outbursts. The pain just never leaves. It’s a huge chunk of your heart that just … it feels like it’s gone, and it’s empty now. Sometimes I’ll look at pictures. I’ll go on his Instagram account. He stayed on Instagram [laughs].

“I am the Phifer, right? Sometimes I’ll go to those, and I’ll look at those, and then I’ll start smiling. When I have certain moments, sometimes I’ll go to text messages of things he would send me. I just reminisce to get through the healing.”

Deisha also looks for strength in Phife’s mother. Before Cheryl joined the conversation, she explained, “I’ll call Cheryl and we get through it together. When I hear her voice sometimes, it lifts me up. Because I’m like, ‘OK, she’s the closest to him.’

“I hold on to her sometimes for strength. Sometimes when I’m going through it, I’ll call her. She’s like, ‘Hey, Deish, how you doing?’ That instantly perks me up. But it’s very difficult. It’s still difficult.”

When Cheryl walked in to the green room, her likeness to Phife was almost shocking. There’s no doubt where the Tribe MC came from and where he got his penchant for stringing words together. Her energy instantly set the room at ease while her warm smile brought a sense of peace.

“I haven’t gotten through it,” Cheryl said. “It’s still a day-by-day process, but I know he would want me to continue my work. I am a professional poet and writer, so I withdrew from a lot of my performing and teaching and things like that. That was very helpful. I’ve been in therapy for the last two-and-a-half years and writing.

“I’ve just written a memoir [Mama Phife Represent] about our family and our life together. That has been very helpful in a way but also feels naked because our lives have been like an open book. I know we signed up for that, but still to mourn in public is no joke.”

However hard it may be, Cheryl is eternally grateful for the countless people who recognize what an invaluable contribution and impact her son made on the world. The Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders event is a shining example.

“That has been the highlight of some of the healing, the highlight that he was a good man,” Cheryl said. “We knew it — no jail or drugs or 10 baby mommas. This is a man who prayed before he ate his meal and he didn’t care where he was, what restaurant, what high class, it didn’t matter. He was like that.

“This is a guy who kept his childhood friends from grammar school. We have always known that he was doing his best. I mean, he was human, but that he was trying his best to be a good person. To see that acknowledged, that’s been really, really amazing.”

Deisha feels similarly. Phife’s career started to take shape in 1985 when he was only 15, meaning for three decades he was able to live and thrive off his music. In fact, Cheryl laughed when she said he only had one “regular” job — a fast-food position at Stuf’t Potato.

In the Taylor household, you had to either be in school or work, so when Phife approached her and stated he wanted to join Tribe, she had to oblige. Plus, she said it brought him out of a darker period of his life.

“His dad and I were going through a divorce, and that was a really difficult time for him,” Cheryl recalled. “I saw the sadness in him, and I saw his light go out. For the first time, when he told me about rapping with Tribe, I saw a light coming back on in him. When he was six years old, my mother helped him to memorize Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. He did it at a cotillion.

“We’ve seen this in him from the very beginning. When that light goes out, you see that, too. You’re helpless as to what to do. You try everything, but it’s up to them how they come out of it. It was the music that brought him out.”

Deisha added, “I look at the fact that he had a complete career because he started so young. I always think to myself, ‘How many people can say that they were in the business for that long?’ He lived a full life. Even though he passed away young, in my eyes, he still lived a full life as far as his career. He earned platinum and gold albums, and he was well-known around the world.

“This [event] keeps us going. Just to say, ‘Wow, this is all for him.’ If he was here and this was going on, he would be performing. That’s just who he was. He didn’t care. He always said ‘I love Hip Hop, it’s culture, and the fans. He loved everything about music.”

When Deisha and Cheryl are together, their bond is instantly recognizable. They both suffered an impossible loss and continue to lift each other up. In the wake of Phife’s passing, Cheryl had endless empathy for her daughter-in-law despite also losing her son.

The event in San Francisco was also further proof just how much The Funky Diabetic meant to Hip Hop, something she feels he didn’t always get credit for during his time on earth.

“I’m honored and lucky,” Cheryl said. “He deserved this so much, and he did not always get this in his career. For those people who thought he didn’t work as hard as Q-Tip, that’s not true. When he was on tour and doing peritoneal dialysis four times a day and jumping onstage, you would never know. For people who say things like that, they don’t have a clue.

“Sometimes Malik would be sick and I would come out. Deisha and David [son] would be in the bed trying to get some sleep with him because it was late at night. She had to go to work the next day. People don’t know the half of what they speak and what Deisha had to go through. I say all the time that, yes, I’m sad. I loved my son. But my biggest pain was for this girl right here [points to Deisha]. I was like, ‘How does this happen?’”

We may never have the answers to those questions and Cheryl barely had time to even ponder why her son passed, but there are moments when it’s a little easier to understand. One particular time was during a memorial for Phife at the Apollo Theater in New York City shortly after he made his transition.

“I didn’t have time to get there [to the why] because they had a memorial at the Apollo, and the person who spoke said that some people just come here to do their work,” she said. “You see, like Bob Marley. You see like, Jimi Hendrix. They made this big splash with their work.

“Then I said that night, ‘Oh ok, so that’s what it is.’ He came here to do some work, and he’s done it. With the life he lived and things he’s done, I mean, there are people 95 years old that haven’t done the things he has.”

At one point in the evening, Cheryl read two poems about her revered son, which brought many people in the audience to tears. But despite the heavy context, the overwhelming sense of community and love reverberated everywhere. As Cheryl and Deisha continue on their path to healing, they both understand it’s not a process that makes any sense. Emotions come and go like the tides.

“It varies,” Cheryl said. “Sometimes I’m fine. Last night [during opening night], I was fine until they put up his first grade picture. It was like you never know what will trigger it, but you have to feel that in order for it to pass.”

Mama Phife Represent will hopefully be released next year.

In the meantime, cop the A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest album here and check out DX in the coming week for Part II of the interview, which details the status on Phife’s posthumous solo album.


Oakland Declares May 17 Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Day

The late A Tribe Called Quest rapper spent the last 15 years of his life in Oakland, where his wife is originally from.

The late Phife Dawg has been honored with his very own day in Oakland, California.

Oakland has declared May 17 “Phife Dawg Day” following an event that honored A Tribe Called Quest in San Francisco, according to HipHopDX. Phife’s mother, Cheryl Boyce Taylor, his widow, Deisha Head Taylor, and producer Starita (who engineered Tribe’s last album We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service) were present at the event. The honoring was a part of a tribute event dubbed A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders.

“A Tribe Called Quest is being celebrated this week with Bay Area bands, producers and artists celebrating the group’s groundbreaking album Midnight Marauders,” Starita read. “Now, therefore be it, we proclaim Friday, May 17, 2019 is Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Day.”

The tribute was a three-day event that took place at San Francisco’s YBCA. The lineup for the event included the Awesöme Orchestra, MJ’s Brass Boppers, Gift of Gab, La Gente, Royal Jelly Jive, Lagos Roots, and others.

Phife spent the last years of his life Oakland, where Deisha was originally from. Phife died at the age of 45 from complications relating to diabetes.

Now, aside from having his own day, the late rapper also has his own street sign at Linden Boulevard at 192nd Street in the St. Albans neighborhood of Queens, New York City. The site is where the music video for Tribe’s “Check The Rhyme” was filmed.

Source: HipHopDX

City Of Oakland Honors Phife Dawg With His Very Own Day

Ambrosia For Heads – Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Day In Oaktown

Phife Dawg was a product of Queens, New York who represented for his borough and St. Albans section throughout his 25-plus-year music career. However, the co-founder of A Tribe Called Quest also lived other places during his 45 years of life.

One place Malik Taylor made his home was Oakland, California. That Bay Area city declared May 17 to be Phife Dawg Day entering this weekend. According to HipHopDX‘s Kyle Eustice, who was on hand for a ceremony including musical collaborator/Tribe album producer Starita, Phife’s mother Cheryl Boyce Taylor and the MC/producer’s widow Deisha Head Taylor.

Read the full article here…

A New Phife Dawg Album Is Coming & The 1st Song Shows Why He Is Forever (Video)

Per the report, The “5-Foot Assassin” made Oakland his home for more than 15 years. During that time, he was often an attendee at Golden State Warriors basketball games. That team is currently competing in the Western Conference Finals.

Reportedly local artists and musicians are honoring Phife this week in tribute. On March 22, 2016, Taylor died from kidney complications after a longtime and publicized diabetes diagnosis.

Phife Loved Hip-Hop, But Hip-Hop Needed Him (Video)

A posthumous Phife Dawg album is in the works, including a confirmed collaborative song with Redman and fellow Native Tongues alum Busta Rhymes. Late last year, Phife appeared alongside The Black Eyed Peas, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and De La Soul’s Posdnous on single “ALL AROUND THE WORLD.”

In 2016, the Queens, New York block of Linden Boulevard and 192th Street was re-named Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor Way.

Oakland, California Declares May 17 To Be Phife Dawg Day

UnderCover Presents – A Tribute to A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Midnight Marauders’

UnderCover Presents was founded by Lyz Luke in 2010 and has rapidly established itself as an inspirational collective that gathers musicians and artists from every facet of San Francisco Bay Area’s creative community. Since its founding, UnderCover has paid tribute to 14 albums, worked with over 150 local bands, and presented to over 35,000 audience members throughout San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. UnderCover has won Best of Awards from SF Weekly, SF Bay Guardian, East Bay Express, and has also attained two (2) Mayoral Proclamations for Green Day and Sly & The Family Stone at their tributes. UnderCover has become a true public celebration of local music, which is evident by their sold-out shows.



The concept is simple, one distinctive band per song reinterpreting an entire classic album from start to finish. A selection committee decides on the bands to be included in the tribute based upon their locality, distinctive sound, established following, among a variety of other criteria. With each tribute, artists are highly encouraged to put their own sound and personality on their rendition. The result is a cross-pollination of cultures, musicians, photographers, filmmakers, writers and visual artists that doesn’t typically happen on one show bill, or for that matter even festivals.

This time around, UnderCover Presents is honoring A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Midnight Marauders,’ an album that bridged the gap between hip-hop and jazz. Given that the album just celebrated its 25th anniversary, UnderCover felt it appropriate to continue to introduce this classic record to new audiences. Not to mention that the messages embedded in this album continues to echo resoundingly as we witness all that is taking place in the world. The collective is collaborating with Starita as music producer for the album recording, based upon his deep production experience across a multitude of genres in addition to his relationship and last work with Phife Dawg and ATCQ. For the first time, UnderCover will be releasing a double vinyl to commemorate this tribute. Today UnderCover Presents shares the first cover for “We Can Get Down” by high energy soul rock band Royal Jelly Jive. You can listen on Soundcloud.

With this ATCQ’s ‘Midnight Marauders’ tribute, UnderCover has united 13 local bands from a wide range of genres, 7 MCs (including Gift of Gab, Lateef the Truthspeaker, Karega, Starita, RyanNicole, RAV-E Sandhu), over 100+ artists, 9 engineers, 5 music studios, and 1 vinyl pressing plant, to produce an album within 65 days, from pre-production to mastering. The result is a one-of-a-kind and unexpected soundscape of reinterpreted tracks for a mixed genre collection – Experimental Orchestral, World, Cumbia, Reggaeton, Latin Hip Hop, New Orleans Jazz, R&B, Soul, Indie Folk, Rock, Funk, Future Soul, Alternative Rock, Jazz, Electronic, Dance, Ghangra and Afrobeat.

UnderCover Presents: A Tribute to A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Midnight Marauders’ is out 4/26/19. 

A Tribe Called Quest Week will feature 3 shows, starting on Thursday, May 16 through Saturday, May 18, 2019 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, CA followed by an After Party at 7th West, Oakland, on Sunday, May 20, 2019. UnderCover will dedicate Friday as “Phifeday” in honor of Phife Dawg. Details are below, tickets can be purchased here.