Art, College, Education, Lifestyle, Music, News, People

A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg Dies at 45

When was the last time you heard a funky diabetic?

Probably the most recent instance that you let the celebrated 90s rap trio, A Tribe Called Quest, flow through your speakers.

Slick, jazzy samples from Ali Shaheed Muhammad and innovative lyrics from Phife Dawg and Q-Tip created the imaginative beats that blazed the alternative hip-hop trail and inspired other rap artists to think outside box.

That self-proclaimed “funky diabetic” known as Phife Dawg, was one half of the ingenious lyrical tag-team of ATCQ. Born as Malik Taylor, Phife battled diabetes throughout his rise to hip-hop fame. “I was in denial. I had to have my sugar,” he claimed in the group’s documentary.

“You have to accept it,” Phife warned. “If you don’t accept it, it’s going to kick your ass.”

At the age of 45, Phife died late at night Tuesday, March 22, from complications with his diabetic condition, according to a statement by the family.

While the world grieves in the face of losing this lyrical genius and “rap word warrior,” we must also celebrate the incomparable progressive contributions made by Phife to the hip-hop industry, which wouldn’t be where it is today without A Tribe Called Quest.

As a part of ATCQ, Phife pioneered the genre of alternative hip-hop through the early 90s. After their first album, The People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm in 1990, and the subsequent departure of the group’s original fourth member, Jarobi White, the group released four lengthy albums and appeared on countless others. Commercial success landed each album within the top eight slots of the Billboard 200 before they disbanded in 1998.

Back by popular demand, the members reunited for a tour in 2006 and starred as themselves in Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, the 2011 Sony Pictures documentary about the group’s history. As part of a reissue campaign, ATCQ rereleased People’s Instinctive celebrating its 25th anniversary in late 2015, which features remixes from artists like Pharrell, Cee-Lo Green and J. Cole.

Though the late MC was known most famously for his success with ATCQ, Phife went on to pursue a solo career, releasing Ventilation: Da LP in 2000, and appearing in several films and albums over the next decade.

Despite how the group matured and evolved over time, the Phife kept his youthful posture as the creative, witty “Five Foot Assassin,” standing 5 foot 3 inches tall. Phife’s lyrical finesse and quick wit outstood his size, as he emerged from his underrated stature as the trio’s beloved kid brother to one of the most celebrated voices in hip-hop history. “The Trini-gladiator, the anti-hesitator,” Phife was the most relatable of the three Tribe personas with his brutally honest humor and political transparency.

As prayers of love and support for Phife’s family, friends and industry peers reverberate throughout the media, there is sure to be an influx of speakers bumping “Can I Kick It?” and other highly-exalted hits. Lifetime listeners and newfound fans are coming together around the sound of socially conscious rhymes with innovative beats, just as Phife would have wanted.

One thing is for sure: When I die, I hope I get to heaven, because I’ll be anxious to see what Phife is working on up there.

Rest in peace, Phife Dawg.


Art, College, Education, Feminism, Lifestyle, News, People, Politics, Relationships, Women

A Guide to Celebrating International Women’s Day

You’ve probably heard that tomorrow, March 8, is International Women’s Day, but have you ever actually celebrated it? How do you celebrate it anyway?

Maybe it’s like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day; it’s surely highlighting a practice we should be observing on a daily basis. Maybe corporate America is going to profit from human tendencies to make up for what we forgot to do all year long. Except it’s not.

Drug stores haven’t preemptively arranged tables of commercialized gifts for the “special woman in your life.” The floral industry isn’t rushing to jack up the prices of rose bouquets. Children aren’t bringing their mothers breakfast in bed. There won’t be any clearance holiday items at the grocery store tomorrow.

No one is capitalizing off International Women’s Day. Not even women.

In 1908, the first International Women’s Day was observed as 15,000 women marched in the streets of New York City, demanding equal pay, better working conditions and voting rights. More than 100 years later, women still don’t have equal pay and recognition in the workplace.

What we do have, as women, is a day dedicated to our achievements, a recognition of our victories, a celebration of our centuries-long struggle to prove something we shouldn’t have to prove: International Women’s Day is observed in 27 countries around the world, and the United States even designates the entire month of March as Women’s History month.

So how are we using it?

The 2016 International Women’s Day campaign is centered on #GenderParity.

Why, you ask?

Despite the fact that women make up more than half of the human population, we still fail to account for a proportionate amount of political, social and economic power across the globe.

In 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted that actual gender equality would not be reached until 2095. A year later, they adjusted their estimation such that this golden year would not arrive until 2133. (a moment of silence, please)

If we can’t move toward equality faster than a glacial pace, let’s hope that some woman somewhere invents a cure for mortality.

If you’d like to see change from somewhere other than beyond the grave, consider taking any of these steps to celebrate the women in your life:

  1. Call your mom, or someone who has been a mother to you. Chances are, you didn’t get to where you are today without the help of at least one woman (ex: your birth).
  2. Vote! Women fought long and hard for the right to vote, so don’t let it go to waste! The more women vote, the better representation we will have in political office. Don’t know when your state’s primary is? Click here to find out!

Side note for any time-travelers who have come back specifically to 2016 to change whatever historical events are about to happen this year: please vote. Now is your time. We’re begging you.

  1. Be a leader! If you don’t like the leaders in your community, become a better one! Take a pledge, join a club, run for office, start a petition. Any leadership role is a step toward equal representation for women.
  2. Go global! Check out all the opportunities on the International Women’s Day website, or visit to find resources to support women in communities beyond American borders.
  3. Bask in female creativity! Women contribute socially, culturally, artistically, academically and professionally to the content we consume every day – cherish it! Go to an art gallery, read a book, watch a TedTalk, do something to foster appreciation for the work that women do every day.

The point is, there are an infinite number of ways to celebrate. However, the biggest obstacle to celebrating International Women’s Day is awareness. The best thing you can do to celebrate is starting a conversation. You might not know everything about the day, but you sure as hell know at least one woman. Show her some appreciation today! If you’re a woman, show yourself some appreciation! What better reason to treat yourself (all month long!)?

Did I miss something? Let me know how you’re celebrating International Women’s Day in the comments below!

Art, Lifestyle, News, People, Politics, Women

Formation: A Texas Bamma’s National Anthem

Shakespeare misspoke when he wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” What he meant, as we all acknowledged this weekend, is that all the world is actually Beyonce’s stage. As the most popular female performer alive, Beyonce took charge of the most watched televised event of the year by commanding the halftime stage with her brand new single, “Formation.”

She did it while paying homage to Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl performance of “We Are the World” in 1993. And she was inspired by more than just his military jacket.

Critiques and compliments have yet to hold a candle to her hit, through which she talks #BlackLivesMatter in a way that no artist ever has before. Katrina’s aftermath, slavery, Black Panthers, Reconstruction, Mardi Gras, MLK, the Civil Rights Era, Ferguson and more: she referenced it all along with her own struggles, her rise to fame, her unwavering ability to “slay”. And slay she did, by dropping the music video the day before, as a raw, yet eerily magical visual of the Black South, followed by a flawless performance during the game. The celebrated artist used the nation’s most popular venue to deliver the real national anthem, the single we never knew we always needed.

Bey knows that her life as a public figure renders commentary and criticism from all audiences, but her song reiterates the message she’s been putting out for decades: “I did not come to play with you hoes, I came to slay.” It’s her turn to speak, and she’s taking charge of it as an iconic force of political conversation.

She powerfully explains in her last lines, “you know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation,” which goes to show that she knows her platform even better than she knows her audience of 114 million viewers. She didn’t join the #BlackLivesMatter conversation just to get a word in, to get publicity, or to gain twitter followers. She contributed her thoughts so that America would listen.

That’s what music is for. Listening. Queen Bey exhibits that she’s done attending to the opinions of others, and she’s taking control of the narrative.

Formation isn’t free on Tidal because Bey felt charitable; she already pledged $1.5 million to the #BlackLivesMatter Foundation last week with her new campaign #BeyGOOD. Her single is streaming for free because she wants everyone to hear the message behind her lyrics: this conversation involves all of us.

So, get in formation, or get out.

Watch the video here:

Art, College, Lifestyle, People

Creative Differences

A general theory of creativity lies in the idea that only some people are creative, that they have been blessed by God or luck or their parents’ gene pool with a trait that allows them to imagine new ideas or concepts out of thin air. In short, it suggests that creative people don’t have to work hard because creativity comes naturally.

Only the second half of this sentence is true. The first half is a grave misconception.

Creativity does take active effort, but an effort that is universal to the productive, natural thought processes of all humans everywhere.

Being creative doesn’t require you to make something out of nothing, because during no point in your life do you ever have “nothing.”

Creativity only asks that you use what you are given. It asks you to rearrange pieces of knowledge, or identify missing ones as a result of past experiences and situations in order to yield a finished product that conveys something new.

Contrary to the theory that values nobody, this equalizing theory of creativity values every thing that happens to everybody.

But if creativity is an equalizer, doesn’t that defeat individualism?

Not a chance.

Only you have your experiences, your memories, your beliefs, your unique combinations of observations and thoughts: the books you read, the pictures you save, the people you love and the reasons you love them. All of these contribute to the exact way you think and move and grow, and consequently, the way you create. The simple act of absorbing the world around you makes it possible to create and contribute to it in a way that is uniquely yours.

There is no pressure to create something out of nothing, because you already have everything you need.