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Phife Salutes His Tribe and Scores Going Solo

Pop Music Review

May 11, 1999|SOREN BAKER

Even though Tribe Called Quest broke up last year, Phife, the hip-hop trio's most underappreciated member, demonstrated his own appeal and the New York group's legacy Sunday at the Palace. During his 35-minute set, headlining a tour billed as "The Underdawgs of Hip-Hop," Phife simply stood still and rapped, but his charisma completely compensated for his lack of a dynamic stage show.

The engaging rapper even managed to score with untested selections from his forthcoming solo album, a rare feat in any genre. But it was the Quest material that drove the crowd into a frenzy. Unlike a number of popular rap groups that dwell on their hard-core tendencies, A Tribe Called Quest focused on good times, lighthearted braggadocio and themes of self-enlightenment. Hits such as "Check the Rhime" and "Award Tour" featured witty one-liners that highlighted Phife's humorous tendencies and his confidence in his rhyming abilities.

Defari and Xzibit, the two Los Angeles acts that rounded out the bill, are both members of the Alkaholik rhyme family, which also includes Compton pioneer King T and the rowdy trio Tha Alkaholiks. Xzibit, one of hip-hop's most spirited performers, closed the show with a frenzied 40-minute set that was highlighted by some hyper, tag-team rapping performances by Alkaholiks members as well as the up-and-coming group the Barbershop MCs.

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