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Rapper Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest Dies at Age 45: The Hip-Hop Community Reacts

by Rachel McRady 3:07 AM PDT, March 23, 2016
Playing Rapper Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest Dies at Age 45: The Hip-Hop Community Reacts

Hip-hop has lost another legend. Phife Dawg, a founding member of the rap group A Tribe Called Quest, passed away on Tuesday. He suffered complications from diabetes. Numerous rappers and artists tweeted about the loss, and #RIPPhife quickly became a trending topic on Twitter.

On Wednesday the group released a statement, saying, "Our hearts are heavy. We are devasted. This is something we weren't prepared for although we all know that life is fleeting. It was no secret about his health and his fight. But the fight for his joy and happiness gave him everything he needed."

Phife, whose real name is Malik Taylor, suffered a series of medical complications in recent years, undergoing a kidney transplant in 2008 and has been vocal in the past about his struggle with diabetes.

Photo: Getty Images

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A Tribe Called Quest, which was comprised of the late Phife, Q-Tip, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, paved the way for many other hip-hop groups after forming in the mid-'80s. They released five albums between 1990 and 1998, the year they split. Since then they've had several reunions, including a November appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

The group's album Beats, Rhymes and Life hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 1996 and they are known for classic songs like "Bonita Applebum," "Can I Kick It?," "Electric Relaxation," and "Check the Rhime."

Rip King #phifedawg #tribe 🙏🏽 thx for the Epic vibes ...................I'm sick rite now!!!

A photo posted by therealswizzz (@therealswizzz) on

In addition to his stage name, Phife Dawg was known by several nicknames, including the Five Foot Assassin and The Five Footer due to his 5 ft 3 height. In 2000 he released a solo album, Ventilation: Da LP. According to the ATCQ website, Phife passionately loved sports and was "the first to wear throwback jerseys in the early 90's" -- a look that went onto become a staple in rap.

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Following the news of Phife Dawg's passing, numerous members of the hip-hop community shared their condolences on social media.

Jermaine Dupri tweeted a group photo, writing, "#RIPPhifeDawg," and Questlove Instagrammed a pic of the MC with a lengthy caption.

Phife forever 1970-2016. 1991 in Sept I went to visit Tariq at Millersville U in the middle of PA (Lancaster). Miles Davis had just passed & I went on a binge to study his post jazz works. Went to Sound Of Market to purchase Nefertiti, In A Silent Way & Live Evil---the only non jazz purchase I made that day ironically was the most jazziest album in that collection: #TheLowEndTheory by @ATCQ. ---it was raining that day so somehow the 1...2 punch of "Nefertiti"/"Fall" just had me in a trance that train trip---even though I suspected there was a possibility that Tribe could possibly have made a better album then their debut (the perfect @@@@@ mic Source rating would be on stands in a week so I was right)---but I knew I wanted to save that listening for when I got up to the campus w Riq.---so some 90mins later when I get to his dorm--we ripped that bad boy open (I can't describe the frustration that was CD packaging in 1991, just imagine the anger that environmentalists feel when all that paper packaging in Beats headphone gets wasted---it's like that)---the sign of a true classic is when a life memory is burnt in your head because of the first time you hear a song. ---Riq & I had this moment a few times, but the look on our faces when we 1st heard "Buggin Out" was prolly Me & Tariq's greatest "rewind selector!" moment in our friendship. (Back then every MC's goal was to have that "rewind!!!" moment. As in to say something so incredible. Or to catch you by surprise that it makes you go "DAAAAAYUM!!!"& you listen over & over---Malik "Phife" Taylor's verse was such a gauntlet/flag planting moment in hip hop. Every hip hop head was just...stunned HE. CAME. FOR. BLOOD & was taking NO prisoners on this album (or ever again) we just kept looking at the speaker on some disbelief old timey radio Suspense episode. & also at each other "Phife is KILLIN!"--by the time we got to "Scenario" I swear to god THAT was the moment I knew I wanted to make THIS type of music when I grew up--(yeah yeah dad I know: "go to Juilliard or Curtis to make a nice living at "real music") but he didn't know that Phife & his crew already wrote my destiny. I ain't look back since. THANK YOU PHIFE!

A photo posted by Questlove Gomez (@questlove) on

"Malik 'Phife' Taylor's verse was such a gauntlet/flag planting moment in hip hop," The Roots frontman wrote. "Every hip hop head was just...stunned HE. CAME. FOR. BLOOD & was taking NO prisoners on this album (or ever again)… by the time we got to 'Scenario' I swear to god THAT was the moment I knew I wanted to make THIS type of music when I grew up--(yeah yeah dad I know: 'go to Juilliard or Curtis to make a nice living at 'real music') but he didn't know that Phife & his crew already wrote my destiny. I ain't look back since. THANK YOU PHIFE!"

Swizz Beatz shared his own Instagram tribute, writing, "Rip King #phifedawg #trube thx for the Epic vibes… I'm sick rite now!!!"

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