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.
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.”
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.
“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!!!”