It's been two weeks now since the world lost one of the most original voices in music and the Phife Dawg tributes have deservedly been pouring in. Kanye West added his voice to that choir of praise for Phife in a recent memorial speech that touched on everything from Tribe's astounding influence on his music to how the music industry has profited off Black music, and thanks to the wonders of mobile technology we can watch the full speech for ourselves.
Since it's difficult to really think about Kanye's words without also being able to read them, I tried my best to transcribe the speech, holding true to Kanye's verbatim words although the audio was occasionally unclear, and only cutting out pauses, asides and incomplete sentences I didn't think had any bearing on the larger speech. You can watch and hear for yourself at the link below. * hands the mic to Kanye *
"I might say something wrong, but it'd be wrong to say nothing.
When I see the power in this room...I was just looking at KRS...and thinking about how Low End Theory was the first album I ever bought. I stayed in the suburbs of Chicago with my momma and my stepfather, and I'd always get in trouble for listening to music. Then I'd have to go to detention or study hall or whatever they called it, but I enjoyed it cause I had that Tribe tape. It didn't matter how long that walk was. And I think about stories of [Queen] Latifah, how when she was young she knew what she was going to be in life. And I look at the power in this room, and...
I know Rosenberg said something about [Led] Zeppelin. You know me, I'm very sensitive to things like this. But I [don't want?] Zeppelin mentioned at Phife's funeral. 100 years from now we're gonna all be with Phife. This country was built off our backs. When I see LL...
I live next to the dentist. I stay in a $20 million crib next to the dentist. And...I be at these events in Hollywood and then I be at these events here, and I see how many more people inspire me and the walls we have on our finances. The way that the music industry was set up, everyone who signs everyone from outta Queens, and the Bronx, and the Southside of Chicago and Atlanta, they made sure they get that crib. I'm sorry, but that's what was on my fucking mind when I was sitting here and thinking about how much these people inspire me and how powerful the influence of music was. How it made that walk to study hall so short. How it meant everything. It is everything. Music was stolen from us. And corporatized. And anyone who spoke up was demonized. Anything I ever did wrong, blame Tip and Phife cause y'all raised me.
I don't want to hear about Led Zeppelin tonight. I ain't heard an album all the way through.
Give me a line from "Scenario," I'll do the whole thing all the way through. Y'all made it OK for me being from the city of Al Capone, the number one murder city, Tribe made Kanye West. Made the kid with the pink Polo. Made it so I could dress funny and still get [girls].
I'm not sorry if I said something wrong.
I'mma wrap up now. I love y'all. Phife made....[cries]...I'mma say one more thing. When Cons said "honor," there wasn't no punchlines with it. Me and Cons was doing the same thing, sitting in Bassline studio, cameras on or off, we never stopped. Honor. Honor that work, honor that influence, that ability to chop that sample, that ability to put that rap together, honor that. Maybe there ain't no David Stern who figured out how to turn rappers to multi-millionaires the way they turned ball players to multi-millionaires, but they gotta honor it. I'm picturing the GRAMMYs right now, there's gonna be a real quick blip [picture of Phife shown]. It's gonna be short, like Michael Jackson's was short. Cause when you get to Michael Jackson status it's 'he's crazy' cause he said the truth out loud. You get in trouble for the truth.
Cons you know what I'm talking about, honor man. They gotta honor us, honor what hip-hop is. Paul Rosenberg is an example. It should not be surprising to you when the sports announcer was influenced by Tribe. That should not be a surprise, that's the absolute truth.
I love y'all, and I'm not sorry. Rest in peace to Phife Dawg."