Rapper Phife Dawg, a member of the pioneer hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, died Monday night at the age of 45, after a long struggle with type-2 diabetes.
While there is no information about what caused his death, the rapper battled diabetes for several years before receiving a kidney transplant in 2008. His diabetes became one of his signature characteristics.
According to BBC, Phife Dawg “nicknamed himself the Funky Diabetic and the Five Foot Assassin — a reference to his diminutive stature — and his self-deprecating swagger became one of the band’s trademarks.”
Phife Dawg was born Malik Isaac Taylor in 1970. He helped found A Tribe Called Quest with Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad in 1985. As residents of Jamaica Queens, New York, the three men were at the epicenter of the burgeoning rap scene and quickly became stalwarts in the industry for their lyrical genius and prowess.
“Malik was our loving husband, father, brother and friend,” his family said in a statement. “We love him dearly. How he impacted all our lives will never be forgotten. His love for music and sports was only surpassed by his love of God and family.”
In the 1990s, the group skyrocketed to the top with the 1991 album Low End Theory — a rap classic that went on to influence many future rappers. The album was a philosophical masterpiece with hit singles like “Buggin’ Out,” “Check the Rhime” and “Scenario.”
By the 2000s, Phife Dawg had gone solo, and he became one of Q-Tip’s toughest critics. His first solo album, Ventilation: Da LP, was released in 2000. At the time of his passing, the rap legend was reportedly working on a second solo record entitled Muttymorphosis.
Phife Dawg and other members of A Tribe Called Quest reunited several times. The first was in 2006, and for several years they toured and reconnected. Then the group broke up again. Last November, the group reissued People’s Instinctive as the first of a massive reissue campaign. A Tribe Called Quest’s Tonight Show performance of “Can I Kick It?” — their first televised performance in 15 years — would end up being the group’s last, reports Rolling Stone.
Phife Dawg was known for his vibrant and innovative lyricism. Twitter users shared their love as well as their favorite lyrics from the rapper:
RIP to phife dog of tribe called quest pic.twitter.com/f4t5fvg4WD
— DJ Chuck Chillout (@djchuckchillout) March 23, 2016
I have no words…..we lost a legend in Hip Hop….one of the LEADERS of this whole tribe…..we love you, Phife.
— Rapsody (@rapsody) March 23, 2016
R. I. P. ????? my. Dawg. Linden to linden warren g used to bang that before we had a deal ✊???✨?? pic.twitter.com/SUwbl9yhyS
— Snoop Dogg (@SnoopDogg) March 23, 2016
Sad day for Hip Hop as we lose another! Want to Salute the homie #PhifeDawg You will be missed! Rest In Paradise fam
— Mobb Deep (@MobbDeep) March 23, 2016
— marlon wayans (@MarlonWayans) March 23, 2016
Today is a dark day in hiphop.
— Talib Kweli Greene (@TalibKweli) March 23, 2016
— Thomas Bowen (@thombowen) March 23, 2016
— Marsha Gosho Oakes (@RealDownToMars) March 23, 2016
Back in 89, I simply slid into place-
Buddy, buddy, all up in your face…. #RIPPhife
— SHAKA O. (@ShakaOmega) March 23, 2016
#RIPPhife unbelievable! you introduced me to a subgenre of hip-hop that i quickly fell in love with
— Jelisa Chatman (@JelisaCC) March 23, 2016
— April (@ReignOfApril) March 23, 2016
money please…..i get loose off of orange juice #RIPPhife
— vinny milano (@baldvinny) March 23, 2016
— fuseboxradio (@fuseboxradio) March 23, 2016
— Jonathon Pitman (@jonathonpitman) March 23, 2016
I'm vexed, fuming, I've had it up to here,
My days of paying dues are over, acknowledge me as in there.#RIPPhife
— Desmond Cole (@DesmondCole) March 23, 2016
— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) March 23, 2016
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) March 23, 2016
— eatwords drinkstars (@akamami) March 23, 2016
"Now here's a funky introduction of how nice I am" #RIPPhife
— Van Lathan (@VanLathan) March 23, 2016
Phife Dawg contributed to both Rap Pages and Slam magazine, writing pieces about sports and music. He also served as music consultant for the Golden State Warriors at one point.
“He brought the street to A Tribe Called Quest,” said the group’s former manager Chris Lighty in actor/director Michael Rapaport’s documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life. “If Q-Tip was esoteric and on Pluto, Phife would bring them back to the moon so that it was in the realm of human understanding.”