The rapper spoke about the A Tribe Called Quest co-founder at a New York gathering Tuesday

By Eric Renner Brown
April 06, 2016 at 02:41 PM EDT
Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Kanye West is a longtime fan of A Tribe Called Quest: He covered the pioneering hip-hop act on one of his earliest demo tapes, and Tribe performed two of its final gigs as openers at New York installments of West’s Yeezus Tour in November 2013. It was only natural that the rapper would participate in the tribute to the late Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor that occurred Tuesday night at New York’s Apollo Theater.

The roster that turned out to honor Phife Dawg was as extensive as one would expect for a hip-hop luminary — Busta Rhymes, Andre 3000, Chuck D, D’Angelo, KRS-One, Grandmaster Flash, and director Michael Rapaport all appeared — but West’s words stood out.

“[Tribe’s] Low End Theory was the first album I ever bought,” West told the audience. “I’d always get into trouble for listening to music during the week and then I would have to go to detention or study hall, but I enjoyed it ’cause I had that Tribe tape and it didn’t really matter how long that walk was.”

But West’s tribute went beyond stating his love of the group’s classic albums. “Anything I ever did wrong, blame Tip and Phife ’cause y’all raised me,” he joked. “Y’all made it OK in a city of Al Capone — number one murder capital city — for me to be me. Tribe made Kanye West. Made the kid with the pink Polo. Made it so I could dress funny.”

Phife Dawg died last month due to complications resulting from diabetes. He was 45.