"A Tribe Called Quest is my childhood. It's how I came to understand what hip-hop is," says mural artist Vincent Ballentine. "A lot has come before, a lot has come after, but they changed the game."
The hip-hop quartet A Tribe Called Quest hails from this neighborhood of St. Albans, Queens. It was here, in 1991, they recorded a famous scene from their iconic music video Check The Rhime.
The video ends with the group performing on the roof of Nu-Clear Cleaners, still in business to this day, with a mob of fans cheering from the street below.
In 2016, 25 years after the video dropped, Ballentine was commissioned to paint a mural in their honor on the side of the building.
"This piece became a tribute," Ballentine says, "not only to the group, but to the place that it came from."
Ballentine, a Cleveland, OH native, has painted murals across the city, but this project, initiated in 2015, held a special place in his heart. It became even more impactful to him in 2016, when a founding member of Tribe, Malik "Phife Dawg" Taylor, died at the age of 45.
"We get to a point where we're like, okay, we'd like to do this project to, okay, now we have to do this project. And it became bigger because of Phife's passing."
Ballentine's mural isn't the only Tribe tribute on this corner. In November 2016, six months after his death, this section of Linden Boulevard was renamed Malik "Phife Dawg" Taylor Way. To Ballentine, at least, the intersection has never shined brighter.
"We're not only sitting at the intersection of 192nd and Phife Dawg Way," he says. "We're also sitting at the intersection of past, present and future: the past of what happened here; the present of us being here now and having a backdrop; and the future to be able to investigate something, to find out, well, who were A Tribe Called Quest? Why do they have a mural for them? They're still out there, they're still making music, but this will last hopefully as long as their place in history will."
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