Shortly before Kendrick Lamar took the stage in Sydney on Wednesday, news of A Tribe Called Quest co-founder Phife Dawg’s death started circulating. So during his sold-out show, the Compton MC took a moment to honor the fallen hip-hop legend with an emotional tribute.
“There’s 18,000 in this arena tonight and I need one favor,” Kendrick told the crowd. “We had a good time tonight, but I need one favor. Today we lost one of the pioneers in hip-hop by the name of Phife Dawg.
“So, right about now, ain’t nobody caring about me,” he continued. “We’re gonna give it up for him, for allowing me to do what I’m doing on this stage, right here, right now, today.”
As the crowd illuminated Allphones Arena by holding up their cell phone lights, Kendrick led a rousing call-and-response chant, as they shouted Phife Dawg’s name. K Dot capped the tribute with another touching salute: “Forever, hip-hop, we gonna be alright.”
A Tribe Called Quest’s jazz-sampling influence is all over Kendrick’s discography, especially on To Pimp a Butterfly and this month’s untitled unmastered (ATCQ’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad even co-produced “untitled 06”). And back when he was a relatively unknown MC, Kendrick rhymed over ATCQ’s “Electric Relaxation” on his and Jay Rock’s No Sleep Til NYC mixtape.
The respect apparently went both ways, too -- in a 2015 chat with Interview magazine, Phife mentioned Kendrick as one of his favorite rappers, saying, "I listen to J. Cole, Joey BadA$$, that whole Pro Era squad, Kendrick Lamar. He's shown us love throughout verses he's done on his last album. That's love right there. That's dope."
Besides Kendrick, many others in the hip-hop community -- including Nicki Minaj, Big Sean, and Questlove -- have paid their respects to the late icon following his sudden death at age 45.