Dozens of hip-hop fans young and old from across the five boroughs and beyond gathered in Queens' St. Alban's Memorial Park today to pay tribute to Malik "Phife Dawg" Taylor, a founding member of A Tribe Called Quest. Taylor died two weeks ago at age 45 after a decades-long struggle with diabetes, leaving behind one of the most beloved legacies in East Coast rap.

Wrapped in coats and huddled beneath umbrellas, fans of Phife Dawg clutched vinyl copies of albums like Midnight Marauders and The Love Movement, swapping memories and reminiscing on the impact A Tribe Called Quest had on them. "My family's been playing them since I was a kid," Sean Gonzalez said. Gonzalez found out about the memorial Sunday through social media posts and woke up early to take the Long Island Railroad from Hempstead to Queens. "I was born in '93, and I love all their stuff."

He recalled the disbelief he felt last month upon reading that Phife was gone. "I woke up, and the first thing I did was check the news. I saw it and I thought, 'I need to put on my glasses. I'm reading this wrong.' I just couldn't believe it happened."

(Scott Heins/Gothamist)

The management of A Tribe Called Quest gave almost no notice for what had been dubbed "A Celebration of Phife." Fans were told to gather at 10:30 a.m. Monday morning at St. Alban's Park—located only a few blocks from where Taylor grew up—and were told: "The first 200 fans to arrive will receive something very special!" That "something" turned out to be a free t-shirt dedicated to lost MC, plus a general admission ticket to a surprise invite-only memorial for family, friends and those devoted fans tomorrow, April 5th, at The Apollo Theater—a tribute in Phife's honor.

The crowd never topped that 200 number Monday, and some fans said they'd seen others arrive, quickly scoop up their t-shirt and ticket, and quickly take off. Still, for Queens Village resident Tafarie Bobb-Alexander and many others, the prize wasn't the point. "I just came here to remember Phife Dawg and the legacy he left behind," Bobb-Alexander said. "I can't expect Q-Tip to be here, or a stage, or Nas to show up. I'm just happy that they even had this. I didn't get everything I wanted, but I'm happy with how things turned out, regardless."

Rich Caraballo remembers listening Phife's verses on A Tribe Called Quest recordings dating back to 1989. "I'm on the list for tomorrow's show," he said. "But I wish I wasn't. It's terrible that we have to be having a memorial and tribute show for him."

(Scott Heins/Gothamist)

Just after 12 p.m., Caraballo and others rushed to the park's curb; a hearse carrying Phife's casket had just turned on to Sayres Avenue. "Here comes Malik!" members of the crowd shouted as a long funeral procession of vehicles drove past (a small, private service for Taylor took place at a nearby Jamaica church). Visible in one van was Tribe member Jarobi White, who himself has called for a portion of Sayres, and all of St. Alban's Park, to be renamed after Phife. Fans shouted out words of thanks and love as Taylor's loved ones drove past. The hard-knocking beat of "Award Tour" blasted from a parked van.

"I got into Tribe through my older cousins. I'm 29, and I was seven when I first heard their cassettes," DJ and record producer Charlie Hustle said. "It kind of kicked off a greater interest in hip-hop, and I ended up moving from Milwaukee to the Bronx because I fell in love with hip-hop. Tribe has been an influence on my entire life."

"I'll be really emotional tomorrow," he said. "I don't know what to expect. It won't be your average type of Tribe show. I think the crowd will perform Phife's verses. I know I'm going to shout them."