Malik Taylor, better known as “Phife Dawg” or “Phife” from A Tribe Called Quest, died on Wednesday. He was 45.
Rolling Stone reports that Phife struggled with health issues for numerous years. He was a Type 1 diabetic, and struggled with kidney issues that led to a kidney transplant in 2008.
— BET (@BET) March 23, 2016
Phife was born in Queens, New York, on November 20, 1970. While growing up in the Jamaica area of Queens, he met Kamaal Ibn John Fareed (Jonathan Davis), better known as Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest. The pair went to school together and even played on the same Little League baseball team.
As a teen, Q-Tip made solo tracks with the help of DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Q-Tip and Muhammad would often team up with Phife to make demo albums, and in 1988 they became A Tribe Called Quest, a name coined by Hip-Hop group The Jungle Brothers. A fourth member, Jarobi White, joined the group, but left shortly after the group started to gain national fame.
A Tribe Called Quest saw their biggest commercial success in 1993 with their single “Award Tour” from their third album, Midnight Marauders. However, the group had a total of five studio albums, many of which had singles that hit into top Billboard chart. Phife appeared in all five studios albums, including the following.
- 1990: People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
- 1991: The Low End Theory
- 1993: Midnight Marauders
- 1996: Beats, Rhymes and Life
- 1998: The Love Movement
The group broke up shortly after their 1998 album, and Phife experienced difficult times due to health problems, but managed to record his one and only solo in album in 2000, entitled Ventilation: Da LP. In 2015, he spoke with Rolling Stone and seemed positive and excited about his future in music and his health.
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) March 23, 2016
“I am in a good spot, but I have my good days and I have my bad days. But I’m more or less in a good spot, so I can’t really complain.”
In 2005, A Tribe Called Quest received the “Special Achievement Award” during the Billboard R&B Hip-Hop Awards in Atlanta. Throughout the past decade, the group got together every now and then for special occasions. Last november, the group appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, on the same day of the 25th anniversary of their debut album.
Phife was beloved and cherished in the entertainment industry. Numerous Hip-Hop artists, actors, singers, and organizations reached out on social media on Wednesday to pay their respects to the talented Hip-Hop artist, who also went by the nicknames of “the Funky Diabetic” and “The Five Footer,” due his short stature of 5-foot-3.
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 23, 2016
During the Rolling Stone interview in 2015, Phife, was was anticipating the release of his unfinished EP, Give Thanks, reminisced on his success with A Tribe Called Quest. The superstar Hip-Hop artist never thought the group would get as big as it did.
“I never expected it to be this big. I just thought we were going to be celebs in the hood. Like, honestly, within 25 years, when you go to places like Australia and Japan and Amsterdam and London and Germany and these people know [the songs] word-for-word, it’s crazy. So it’s nothing but a blessing at the end of the day, but I don’t remember a lot.”
So far, the official cause of death for Phife Dawg has yet to be released.
[Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images]