A Tribe Called Quest co-founder and a founding father of hip-hop, Phife Dawg, died last night at the age of 45, leaving fans of hip-hop’s golden age with a heavy heart. His cause of death has not yet been revealed, but the legendary rapper, born Malik Isaac Taylor, had a history of health struggles stemming from diabetes.
Along with childhood friends Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White, Phife Dawg founded A Tribe Called Quest in the late ‘80s, and the group soon became famous for their unique style, sound and lyrics.
Phife — who would trade verses, lines and hooks with the group’s other main emcee, Q-Tip — was known for his humor and wordplay as well as for being “the five-foot assassin with the roughneck business,” who was always “on point.”
The group went on to inspire artists like Kanye West, Pharrell and André 3000.
After ATCQ’s eventual breakup in the late ‘90s, Phife was thrust back into the spotlight in 2011 thanks to Michael Rapaport’s documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest as well as sporadic reunion shows.
Late last year, Phife, along with the other members of ATCQ, came to SiriusXM for a Town Hall celebrating the 25-year anniversary of the group’s debut album, which aired on Backspin (Ch. 43). They also stopped by for a rare 40-minute interview with DJ Whoo Kid on Shade 45.
Hip-hop has lost an absolute force. Rest in peace, Phife.