A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg Entertains at the Shattuck Down Low

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On Friday night, tucked away in Berkeley's intimate Shattuck Down Low, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest conducted a musical experiment on a jubilant Berkeley crowd.

Add one part ATCQ, two parts dance floor and three parts unconventional performance, and voila, you have the Phife Dawg Experience.

In the first installment, Phife and his fellow rapping paragon Muhammad put together an enigmatic set which intertwined Muhammad's eclectic DJ set with Phife's oozing stage presence and charisma.

"It's a club situation," Muhammad said after finishing his two hour set around 2 a.m. "People really thought it was going to be a [Tribe concert] and that's not it. Phife is turning into a club promoter. When you have friends who are able to attract a crowd, you call on your friends. And this is just his first night and I was happy to be able to support him."

And support him he did.

Muhammad was the star of the night whose dance-centric set vacillated between classics such as Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved" to more contemporary tracks such as Lupe Fiasco's "Kick, Push." While Muhammad manned the DJ booth, Phife's performance was limited, as most have been since his kidney transplant in September 2008. He spent the majority of the night working the crowd, taking pictures with adoring fans and passing out fist-bumps indiscriminately.

The performance was intended to work out the kinks before expected appearances by Q-Tip, DJ Quik and other high-profile acts.

"First impressions mean a lot," Phife said after the show. "So hopefully [the crowd] went away happy and they can spread the word that the Phife Dawg Experience was good to them."

"Me personally, I'm pretty hard on myself. I thought it could have been better. But you live and you learn. We'll get it popping."

Despite the pair's reluctance to deviate from the DJ club vibe which Phife tried so hard to cultivate, the pleas of the crowd would not go unheeded. Early in the set Phife would dart on and off the stage to perform such Tribe classics as "Butter" and "Check the Rhime." There was no doubt that the jazzy tracks' first chords revved the crowd to a frenzy reminiscent of the pair's reception in their prime.

"There's always love in the Bay Area, always," Muhammad said of the crowd. "That's how it's been from day one for us. I'm usually here once a year spinning and it's always filled with love and energy and music lovers."

However, the performance was not as cut and dry as a glorified dance party. Muhammad played numerous tracks produced by the late J-Dilla including the producer's own "Reality TV" and "Runnin" by Pharcyde. Dilla, the cherished producer and artist, who passed away four years ago, and Muhammad's set was in many ways a tribute to his close friend and colleague.

"We discovered him," Muhammad reminisced. "We were on tour doing the Lollapalooza tour and he passed us a cassette and said, 'Would you listen to this?' We listened to it and we brought him on and he produced for Tribe and that's how the world knows him."

"He's a very talented person. I call him The King. His music transcends still, he's not here but if you see the way people are affected. I'm a fan before I'm a mentor."

All in all, the night was an experiment of funky proportions. Less A Tribe Called Quest concert and more a focus group for Phife's new style, the majority of the patrons seemed more than pleased to dance to a gauntlet of hip-hop's finest in the presence of their beloved pair from Queens.

Tags: A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, PHIFE DAWG, SHATTUCK DOWN LOW, SHAHEED MUHAMMAD, J-DILLA, LOLLAPALOOZA, PHIFE DAWG EXPERIENCE


Experience Phife Dawg with Chris at [email protected] and promote the club with Ashwin at [email protected]



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