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‘Watch’ ’96 Bonus: RZA Remembers Phife Dawg

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As told to Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald

People were asking about [Phife] all day, and I just think it’s a personal day. But I’ll give you one thing. One of my favorite moments [with Phife] was the first time — I didn’t meet him, but kind of saw him. There’s a club in New York called the Red Zone, and I must’ve been 19 at the time, up in the club, and we all in there partying. Funkmaster Flex is the DJ, and this is right before they dropped “Can I Kick It?” … before the record comes out. Phife comes in — and everybody’s already on Tribe’s dick already, you know what I mean? And he comes in, and, yo — he climbs up to the DJ booth and kicks the verse from “Can I Kick It?”

He tore the whole fucking club down. I was like, “Oh, shit.” ’Cause I didn’t know him, and he just came in there and just — as a MC and as a confident individual — came in there and flipped the whole club. I think somebody else [performed] before him, and I don’t know if it was Busta [Rhymes] or one of them. [But] it was over when he got on. So rest in peace to that good brother, man. Rest in peace. … Bong-bong. Long live hip-hop.

This piece originally appeared in the March 25, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.