Phife Dawg – Forever

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The loss of Phife Dawg closed a pivotal chapter in the evolution of hip-hop. Essentially shuttering A Tribe Called Quest, he left behind one of rap’s most potent catalogues, a true student of the art who was able to see around corners other artists simply couldn’t spot.  

‘Forever’ lands on the sixth anniversary of his ascension, and it’s a creditable piece of fan service to one of American music’s core figures. Posthumous albums may not be to everyone’s tastes, but ‘Forever’ delivers enough to be worthy of a spot within Phife’s discography, even if it does contain pitfalls of its own.  

The highs are certainly worth exploring. The punchy ‘Fallback’ for example, with those stellar guest spots from Rapsody and Renee Neufville; ‘Nutshell Pt. 2’ dives straight into muscular 90s boom-bap, pitting Phife Dawg against Busta Rhymes and Redman, conjuring remixed visions of the Golden Age.

Indeed, ‘Forever’ feels like a love letter to both an artist, and an era. ‘Wow Factor’ boasts De La Soul founder Maseo, while ‘French Kiss Trois’ has a breezy jazz feel, combined with guest bars from Redman and Illa J.

In truth, it doesn’t always land. The production on ‘God Send’ feels stunted, and a little dated, while the posthumous nature of the project means that some are little more than sketched, stretched out to become full tracks. As a result, certain tracks don’t actually feature a lot of the central artist – yet he remains a ghostly presence, given shout outs, his influence permeating the lyrics, and sound of the project as a whole.

While not without fault, ultimately ‘Forever’ emerges as a tender salute to Phife Dawg. Six years on, he remains a key aspect of the rap firmament – a light that has not dimmed.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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