After news broke of Phife Dawg’s death Wednesday morning, several artists, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, memorialized the hip-hop pioneer via social media. In a new interview with Billboard, Miranda elaborates on his earlier comment that the founding member of A Tribe Called Quest was influential on the mic because he was so unapologetically himself. “He rapped about being diabetic, he rapped about being 5 feet tall,” the Hamilton creator (who planted a Phife Easter egg for matinee audiences) explains. “He took the things that you think would discount someone from being able to have a career as an MC and made them superpowers.”
Tribe opened the door in terms of subject matter. They were just authentically themselves, and they rapped about their friendships and New York stories. It just felt like these were your friends and they got on and they were telling you what life was like on their side of things. And that’s why we responded — because they were real with us every time … I mourn the loss of Phife’s voice, I mourn that interplay between him and Q-Tip. But I’m also grateful for it. Phife was 45 years old, and that is too, too young. He struggled with his health his entire life, but the things that he made are going to stay with us forever. You can’t help but be grateful for that.