Hundreds of fans, family and friends showed up to the corner of 192nd Street and Linden Boulevard to celebrate the music and life of Taylor. Some fans drove as far as Indiana to be present at the co-naming ceremony.
Taylor passed away last March at the age of 45 due to diabetes complications, 26 years after being initially diagnosed.
“Tribe” members Q-Tip and Jarobi White were in attendance, along with rappers Consequence and Busta Rhymes. They gathered in front of a mural dedicated to the group outside of Nu-Clear Cleaners.
For White, it seemed surreal to have a mural on “the very block” the group spent their days hanging out on.
Quest Green, an author and director of Marriage Division at Eric Thomas & Associates, said Taylor and the group wrote the soundtrack to his life. His words resonated with many in the crowd.
“Every time somebody walks or drive by this sign on Linden Boulevard, that’s not just a street name change, that’s a monument,” Green said. “That’s a reminder that every gift that you got within you, you’ve got to operate it.”
Taylor’s mother, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, shared stories from his upbringing, including how he was the one to make his parents go to church and how as an only child, only grandchild and only nephew, he joked about moving away to escape nosy relatives.
Many of those relatives were in attendance, including Taylor’s father Walt, his uncle, and 96-year-old great-aunt.
Councilman I. Daneek Miller said once the community found out about Taylor’s death, there were 5,000 immediate phone calls and signatures coming in supporting the honor.
“We have a rich musical legacy and cultural legacy, and Tribe is really a part of that as we transcend into the next generation of music,” Miller said. “They are royal ambassadors that have always represented us with the dignity and respect that this community deserves, and the best thing we could do is honor that legacy.”
State Senator Leroy Comrie said southeast Queens is a musical mecca, going back to jazz musicians who called the area home.
“We want to continue to honor people from all cultures because it’s a rich community with a lot of people who have talent and skill,” Comrie said.
Hot 97 radio host Peter Rosenberg also shared his own interactions with the group that he adored, telling the crowd that Taylor and his colleagues were exactly who you would expect them to be.
Rosenberg emphasized that unlike many rappers, it was easy to relate to Taylor because he was a normal guy who was “short, talked a lot of trash, loves sports, loved girls and was funny.”
At the time of his death, Taylor did not know that Donald Trump would become the president-elect, but Rosenberg said Taylor provided a gift by speaking about Trump and his effect in the group’s new album, “We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service.”
The album, released earlier this month, is the group’s first album in nearly 20 years.
“His spirit is still giving us gems,” Rosenberg said.
“Black, white, brown, every color relates to A Tribe Called Quest, and how profound is it that just days after one of the darkest days in this country’s history, how real is it that we were brought this gift by a group that brings all of us together,” Rosenberg said. “That’s what A Tribe Called Quest gave us, that’s what Phife gave us.”
As the unveiling of the Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor Way sign commenced, the crowd started chanting Taylor’s name. Some people in the crowd broke out dancing, while others rapped along to his music.
“Because they did it for the love and not for the money, this is what you get at the end,” Green said.