By Daniel Paiz
Nostalgia is the name of the game as A Week’s Worth album review checks out Phife Dawg’s Forever. This posthumous project had been slowly getting worked on for years by the ATCQ emcee. However, after Phife’s passing it turned into a cathartic passion project of sorts for those involved in its creation. Ever entertaining as Phife Dawg is on the mic, there are hits and misses with this project.
Luckily for Phife and A Tribe Called Quest fans, it largely hits.
Nostalgia in full effect, but not how you might think
Phife Dawg had a lot to say post-ATCQ but didn’t put out records like other members of the group did. His health was a big factor in this regard. His good friend DJ Rasta Root tackled putting this together, and these two focused on several core topics. The five-foot assassin discusses a variety of topics on this album, but all of them are interconnected. Family, the music game, those who have supported him and what he’s learned over the years.
The nostalgia isn’t about longing for previous years or better days music or health-wise. Rather, it’s about reflecting on how certain things went down. Playing phone tag with J Dilla. Getting back on the road with ATCQ. Creating new music and the label Rasta Root and Phife were working on. Breaking down any of those topics would honestly be overkill here. Not because they’re not interesting or too complicated. But the storytelling on “Dear Dilla” and “God Send” for example are best reviewed by Phife’s own verses. Check out a segment of “God Send” to get the picture:
Hopin’ to do a group album but that went nowhere fast
And to make matters worse, my boy J. Dilla passed
Feelin’ bad ’cause me and Dilla playing home tag
For at least two years and now he’s gone, damn
Wish I could have reached out to simply wish him well
It hurts to know that at the same time we was goin’ through hell
I missed you fam, and that’s not just for your sound
What up Ma Dukes? Malik is here to hold you downend of Phife Dawg verse 1 on “God Send”
Phife tells us exactly what he’s going through, here and throughout.
Features change the album’s direction at times
Red Man and Busta Rhymes largely give the blueprint of how collaborations should go on Forever. Both veteran emcees are playful and interact with Phife’s words, making it feel ambiguous as to whether or not the verse was created before or after Phife’s passing. Lyric Jones and Dwele also do a good job of focusing on the song itself and not making it solely a tribute.
That’s no shade to Little Brother, Q-Tip, Maseo or any of the other features that make it tribute-focused. Each dedication and set of reflective words are wonderful and add to the album. It does at times make it a bit difficult to figure out if this is a more of a Phife album or Phife tribute album. It might just be both simultaneously, as there’s no right answer to that dilemma.
For all of those Phife Dawg fans, and by extension A Tribe Called Quest fans, this project is a must-listen. This ode to Phife is a thoughtful collage of tracks that both highlights his lyrical abilities and storytelling, but also shows how much he means to so many. The storytelling verses are the standout portions, as Phife was largely about clever lines and delivering a narrative.
This project likely isn’t going to be the best overall album lyrically or production-wise. That’s totally okay, because the creation of this body of work was never intended for that. This project is an album the departed artist was fully invested in. It’s an appropriate proverbial ride off into the sunset for Phife.
Rest in Peace Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor