“Linden Boulevard Represent, Represent / A Tribe Called Quest, Represent Represent”
25 years after Phife and Q-Tip famously kicked routines on the Boulevard of Linden, the A Tribe Called Quest mural grows in Queens to commemorate the group’s impact on the city and the nation. That’s 25 years almost exactly, in fact, as Tribe’s game changing album Low End Theory celebrates its official 25th anniversary tomorrow, September 24th, 2016 (scroll down or click here to cop via the OKP shop). Appropriately enough, the mural will live on the side wall at Nu-Clear dry cleaners on Linden Boulevard and 192nd St. in Queens–the site of Tribe’s iconic 1991 video “Check The Rhime” and the very rooftop from whence so many of us first heard Phife Dawg spit that immortal couplet ending with: “…and the presence was fittin’.”
Fitting indeed, though it must be noted with sadness that it was Phife’s untimely–seemingly unthinkable–passing 6 months ago that prompted the initiation of a street renaming project at Linden & 192nd St., a movement still under way to rename that stretch of Jamaica, Queens as Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor Way. Organizer and tireless advocate for the official recognition of hip-hop heroes LeRoy McCarthy is responsible for curating and commissioning the A Tribe Called Quest mural, as well as other projects in the works to honor the memory of The Notorious B.I.G. and Big Pun elsewhere in the 5 boroughs (not to mention the engagement with the city of Oakland that resulted in June 16th being declared Tupac Shakur Day).
Many of those projects still face opposition from stakeholders who don’t want to recognize hip-hop’s place in making the world a better place, and it’s due in no small part to the universal love that Tribe and Phife inspired that we’re able to enjoy such a satisfying full-circle moment in Queens. Thanks to documentarian Greg Poole and our OKP Films camera crew, we can witness the creation of the mural literally unfold before our eyes. We get to hear what Tribe’s music meant to muralist Vince Ballentine, see the expressions on the faces of Jarobi‘s dad Benjamin White and Phife’s mom Cheryl Taylor and bask in the glow of pride in Deisha Head Taylor‘s smile as Phife’s widow sets his portrait in its rightful place–all to the neck-snapping J Dilla-produced beat of “Nutshell,” Phife’s last single to be heard while he was alive, used here with kind permission (oh, shit Rasta Root he gets props, too!).
Images speak louder than words so go ahead and click play below, but we’ll leave you with some more words, anyway: the heartfelt words of Kanye West, which we were privileged to hear him deliver in person at Phife’s memorial celebration at the Apollo:
“Low End Theory was the first album I ever bought and I stayed in the suburbs of Chicago with my stepfather. I’d always get into trouble for listening to music during the week and then I would have to go to detention or study hall, but I enjoyed it ’cause I had that Tribe tape and it didn’t really matter how long that walk was…Tribe made Kanye West…Honor. Honor that work. That influence. That ability to chop that sample. That ability to put that rap together. Honor that. I love y’all and I’m not sorry. Rest in Peace to Phife Dawg.” – Kanye West
Producer: Greg Poole
Music: Phife Dawg – “Nutshell” [prod. J Dilla]
Mural: Vince Ballentine