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The Mid-Week Beat: Happy Birthday Mike D and Phife Dawg!

Music >

Today is the birthdays of two prominent contributors to the so-called “Golden Age of Hip Hop” – Mike D of the legendary Beastie Boys and Phife Dawg of the equally influential A Tribe Called Quest.

Mike D was born Michael Diamond on this day in 1965 in New York City. Born into an upper-middle class Jewish family, young Diamond was drawn to the gritty, urban hardcore punk scene that was starting to blossom around clubs like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City.

In 1978, at the age of 13, he co-founded The Young Aborigines, an “experimental-hardcore” band with Diamond sitting in on drums. Eventually, Adam Yauch (later dubbed MCA) would replace Jeremy Shatan on bass and Diamond would move from drums to vocal duties. In 1983, Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) would join the group on guitar and they would eventually change their name to the Beastie Boys. The group released the legendary Polly Wog Stew EP in 1982 and it would be their only release as a hardcore punk band.

** WARNING! This video contains language that may be offensive to some viewers. **

They began to be influenced by the growing New York hip hop scene and in 1983, they released the experimental-hip hop 12″ Cooky Puss, which gave them some moderate local success. They hired the, now-legendary, record producer Rick Rubin as their DJ. Rubin would eventually form Def Jam Records, signing the Beastie Boys as one of the label’s first acts.

Over the course of the next year drummer Kate Schellenbach left the group (eventually forming Luscious Jackson), and, the trio began transitioning into hip hop full-time. They adopted their hip hop monikers and began releasing a successful string of singles. After a tour with Madonna in 1985, they released the legendary Licensed To Ill album a year later. Ill sold over 60 million copies worldwide, solidifying their place as the “biggest selling rap group” of the time and making Def Jam Records the preeminate hip hop label, home to, not only the Beasties but, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Slick Rick and EPMD.

The Beastie Boys would go on to push the boundaries of hip hop until May of 2012 when, sadly, Adam Yauch died of throat cancer. Mike D said in an interview with Rolling Stone that Yauch’s death would most likely lead to the demise of the Beastie Boys, though he hopes to make music with Adam Horovitz in the future.

Diamond currently lives in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn with his wife Tamra Davis and their two children Davis and Skyler Diamond.

Like Diamond, Phife Dawg (born Malik Isaac Taylor) is a New York native. Born in Queens on November 20, 1970, Phife helped found what would become A Tribe Called Quest in 1985, at phifedawg_mainthe tender age of 15, alongside his childhood friend Q-Tip.

The duo made demos as Crush Connection but Phife was more interested in pursuing a career in professional basketball. Eventually he abandoned his professional sports ambitions and became part of the original core Tribe members: Phife, Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White. They were dubbed A Tribe Called Quest in 1988 by The Jungle Brothers, who attended the same high school.

In 1989, the group signed with Jive Records and released their legendary debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. The album got a lot of comparisons to De La Soul’s debut 3 Feet High and Rising, due to its playful lyrical approach, light-hearted content and socially conscious, left-wing leanings. This differentiated them from the macho posturing of hardcore hip hop and eventually the Tribe became associated with the so-called Native Tongues Posse alongside De La Soul and The Jungle Brothers.

The Tribe’s singles “Bonita Applebum”, “Can I Kick It?”, “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo”, “Scenario”, “Check the Rhime”, “Jazz (We’ve Got)”, “Award Tour” and “Electric Relaxation” are now widely considered hip hop classics and the group would go on to release five albums between 1990 and 1998. They broke up in 1998.

In 2000, Phife released his debut solo album, Ventilation: Da LP and is currently working on a second album titled Songs in the Key of Phife. He is also a playable character in the video game NBA 2K7 and NBA 2K9.

Let’s all give a big collective “Happy Birthday” to Mike D and Phife Dawg, two legends of New York hip hop!

In honor of these living legends, we’re featuring some upcoming hip hop shows that are happening in the Brown Paper Tickets universe.

Friday, November 22 I Juicy JAnchorage, Alaska

Juicy J launched his solo career during a break in Three 6 Mafia’s usually busy recording schedule, releasing the hardcore effort Chronicles of the Juice Man: Underground Album in 2002. Gucci Mane, Gorilla Zoe, and Webbie all appeared on the 2009 follow-up, Hustle Till I Die. Two years later, Juicy signed with Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang and released Bandz a Make Her Dance on the label in 2012. The single landed on his third solo album, the 2013 release Stay Trippy.

Saturday, November 23 I Too $hortLawrence, Kansas

Too $hort is credited as being one of the pioneer rappers of West Coast hip hop. Many of his rap lyrics are about pimping, drug use and other sexually-related or explicit/vulgar topics. His real name is Todd Anthony Shaw and he appeared on the second season of VH1’s Couples Therapy with his wife. In 2012 Too $hort along with E-40 released two collaboration albums on the same day titled History: Mob Music and History: Function Music. Both charted in the top 100 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. In 2013, it was announced he will be collaborating with Lady Gaga on a song entitled “Jewels and Drugs” for her upcoming album Artpop.

Saturday, November 30 I North CoastNew York, New York

Watch as New York’s only freestyle rapping, beatboxing, long-form improv teams performs a fully improvised “hip-hopera” right in front of your face. North Coast has been doin’ big things in the New York City improv scene for more than two years. They  have held it down at The Peoples Improv Theater, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, The Tank Theater, comedy festivals around the country, and multiple universities. The show is upbeat and energetic from start to finish. You provide your favorite rap lyric and North Coast will make your gut bust and your head bop. And if you don’t know, now you know.

Saturday, December 7 I MC KABIR and THE DUB DOWN with special guestsCambridge, Massachusetts

MC Kabir’s 5th album Olympic Gold (featuring Lyrics Born, Mr. Lif, Edo. G, Akrobatik, and Gift of Gab from Blackalicious) was released last December at The Lizard Lounge. On December 7, Kabir returns with the ever funky collective known as The Dub Down for another incredible first Saturday of live hip-hop, reggae and soul! Kabir Sen is a busy man, performing the first Saturday every month at the Lizard Lounge while doing a myriad of other things. He’s got a wonderful mix of soul, hip hop, funk, jazz, and rock ‘n roll that hits just right. His music is, for lack of a better word, just nice. The lyrics are intelligent and well delivered, and he’s not just spitting words over samples and pre-made beats- listening to it, you can hear the talented band around him grooving right along.