Today on the six year anniversary of late great, A Tribe Called Quest, member, Phife Dawg’s untimely passing at the age of 45. His Estate has released his long in the works highly-anticipated posthumous solo album, Forever. That was initially supposed to be released in 2017, but is being released now and well worth the wait.
Coming in at 13 tracks and with a little over 53 minutes run time. The album kicks off perfectly with the very soulfully touching V.Rich and DJ Rasta Root-produced, Cheryl’s Big Son (Intro). That finds Phife’s mother giving a very touching introduction to the album. That gives you an idea of how beautifully touching of an album. You are in store for. The intro then perfectly segueing into the very beautifully peppy 9th Wonder-produced, Only a Coward. That has Phife over the very peppy boom bap jam. Rapping with his usual witty and hilarious lyrics. About how grown folks and most notably deadbeat mom’s and dad’s. Should act their age and take care of their families. Instead of trying to party, drink and spend their time. As well as money on superficial things. That wouldn’t last. It is by far one of the highlights of the album. That starts it off an such a high note. The album then going into the very beautifully soulful Khrysis-produced, Fallback. Yet another album highlight. That is almost a response back to, Only a Coward. As it finds The Five-Foot Assassin over the very beautifully soulful production rapping about taking care of family and the joys of fatherhood. With Rapsody also adding a really nice guest feature on the track. Before award winning singer and songwriter, Renée Neufville, ends it out with a very beautifully nice bridge and outro. Her and Phife also singing the beautiful chorus throughout the record. That then so smoothly segues into previously released single, Nutshell Pt. 2. Which was also produced by another fallen Hip-Hop legend, J Dilla and is a remix to the original version of the track. That is more triumphant than the original, but still has the lyrical elasticity as the original. Not to mention this version also has both, Busta Rhymes and Redman. Who add the perfect complimentary touch with their very energetic and amazing guest verses.
The strong start to the album continues with the very soulfully smooth Nottz-produced ballad, Sorry. That sees Phife Dawg so smoothly confessing his love to his other half. With V. Rich also adding a beautiful hook for yet another album standout. Before that so smoothly segues into easily one of the top three tracks on the album. In the beautifully touching DJ Rasta Root-produced, Dear Dilla (Reprise). Which sees Phife penning such a great and chillingly touching open letter to J Dilla. Who ironically enough was not only a longtime collaborator, but great friend of Phife’s as well and why. So much of his footprints are on a lot of the album as well. Ironically and sadly enough another longtime friend and collaborator of Phife’s, Q-Tip. Who he was also in, A Tribe Called Quest, with. Added an earlier emotional hook on the record. In which he himself is eulogizing the greatness that Phife left behind. Going back to how perfection or stuff that is classic takes time. Phife even mentions about it in a voice note towards the end. In which he states, “Man, umm. For-for a while ’cause we not. We not just those doing it one time dudes. When we just gon’ put anything that we tryna put out. Somethin’ classic, somethin’ you can hear. In ten years from now, and be like yo. That’s that ish right there, you know what I mean? So. We been definitely taking our time.”
As we reach the midway point of the album. Khrysis provides some very dusty drums and a great vocal loop. On the very wowing and appropriately titled, Wow Factor. In which Phife gives some very stellar wordplay about all the things. That ranges from everything. From 2Pac to Biggie, Big Daddy Kane, Ice Cube, Prince and MJ. As well as KD, Michigan’s Fab Five, Steph Curry, J Lo, Nia Long and Marvin Gaye. Among the things that wowed him over the years. Maseo of De La Soul adding a nice touch along with Phife on the hook.
As we move to the second half of the album. Phife Dawg goes back to something more cloudier with the very soulful Riddim Kidz-produced, Residual Curiosities. That has him showing his appreciation for the love he has always had. From so many others. The great Lyric Jones adding a beautifully smooth and amazing almost gospel-infused hook. That makes the record so much better too. The album then goes into the Dwele featured, God Send. Where Phife raps about all the ups and downs he had to go through in life. Before he got his lives blessings. That then going into the very heartfelt emotional spoken word poetry from Phife’s mom, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor. On the interlude produced and also with some singing from, Angela Winbush. Called, Round Irving High School. That is one of those real emotional parts of the album. Which may even move you to tears.
Going into the last three tracks on the album. We start off with previously released single, French Kiss Trois. A very feel-good Potatohead People-produced record. That is an ode to Montreal and features living legend and iconic emcee, Redman. As well as the younger brother of the late great J Dilla, Illa J. All three emcee’s rapping and singing their very feel-good and comical verses throughout the track. Before the album goes into the very summery smooth, 2 Live Forever. That doesn’t even have Phife, himself rapping on it. But has Little Brother and POS of De La Soul. Over summery guitar kicks & glistening pianos. Given very penultimate verses about how much they love and miss, Phife Dawg. With Darien Brockington also adding a very beautiful hook. Phife does add at the end though how his mission in music is to go beyond the superficial, but actually provide something interesting for people to listen to. As well as how the kids who are listening to them shouldn’t always be to just party and dance. That there should be some substance there too. The album then perfectly closes out with the DJ Rasta Root, V.Rich and Nottz co-produced, Forever. Where over the very orchestral production and perfectly, Ms. Jackson, sample scratch hook. Phife goes over his history with, A Tribe Called Quest. A very gut-punching and tear-jerking end for most Tribe fans. That so beautifully and bittersweetly ends such a beautiful touching album. Which is likely the last new music we will ever hear from Phife. As the last record and title track was also the last ever music recorded from Phife. Just three days before his untimely passing.
Though it is not a classic album. It is about as close to being a classic as one can get. Which will make new and old fans alike. Really appreciate how Phife was able to put together such a beautifully touching album. That looks back on his successes and failures, both personally and professionally. As an artist unknowingly confronting mortality and trying to make peace at the end. That also shows how great his contributions where and still are to Hip-Hop. That will certainly make his legacy last forever.