Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest has seen a lot of shifts in hip-hop over his 25 years in the game, and the Five Foot Freak recently spoke to rolling out about the state of hip-hop in his hometown of New York City. Though Phife now resides in the Bay Area, he grew up in NYC and lived in Atlanta during the 1990s; so he has a unique perspective on how things have played out back East as New York appears to be poised for a comeback.
“It’s just time for New York to get back on their grind,” said Phife. “You still got the Pro Era cats and the A$AP Mob cats; I feel there are a lot of cats who just haven’t gotten the time of day for whatever reason.”
“It’s easy to say ‘New York hip-hop fell off,’ when people that are New York that you actually get to hear sound like the kids Down South. They put New York hip-hop all in one bag and act like the hip-hop scene is whack,” he says. “But if your really did your homework, you’d see that New York hip-hop is still alive.”
The 90’s rap veteran also shared that many of the New York artists that are copying southern hip-hop styles and sounds will likely fall by the wayside as traditional New York hip-hop returns because originality trumps trendiness.
“The ones that go about the business of sounding like Atlanta — their time is gonna be up in a minute or two,” Phife explained. “Life is a cycle, the realness is going to come back around. Down South, they had their time and they was winning — OutKast, Luda, T.I. — I like those Down South artists that had no problem being themselves.”
But there is one Atlanta rapper that Phife had words for — a certain one-hit wonder who made noise last year about the state of New York hip-hop.
“The one Down South artist that was running his mouth was Trinidad James,” Phife adds, laughing. “That’s actually funny to me. I’m like, I understand what you’re saying and you may have some validity, but you have to work on your craft before you talk about a whole state or city or so forth.”