Pop Culture

Phife Dawg Of A Tribe Called Quest Dies, The Hip-Hop Community Reacts

The hip-hop community mourns the self-proclaimed "funky diabetic." 

Early this morning, the hip-hop community, friends, and fans woke up to disbelief as confirmation rolled in of the death of hip-hop pioneer and A Tribe Called Quest’s co-founder, Malik Taylor, better known as Phife Dawg

At just 45 years-old, it is speculated that the death is health related. Phife, who suffered from Type 1 Diabetes, underwent a kidney transplant in 2008. The tragic news began to circulate late last night, after DJ Chuck Chillout produced a photo of the legend with an “RIP” message, confusing many who were in the dark about the news at the time.

An hour later, Punchline, a fellow rapper and friend of ATCQ, tweeted the following: 

Kamaal Fareed, better known as Q-Tip, is the heartbroken friend in question. And it’s no surprise. Phife Dawg and Q-Tip grew up as childhood friends in Queens, New York. The two officially became a group in 1985 with Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White (who left the group after their first album in 1991).

Proud of his 5’3" height, “Malik, the 5 foot freak” undoubtedly ushered in a new wave of lyricism, melodic imagination, and humor assisted by his ATCQ brothers, catapulting them as pioneers of changing tides in the 90s. 

Taylor was present and instrumental in all five of the group’s studio albums, most notably 1991’s The Low End Theory and 1993’s Midnight Marauders. Their last studio album, The Love Movement, was powerful for more reasons than one -- as seen in the powerful documentary Beats, Rhymes, & Life.

Taylor managed to release one solo project, Ventilation: Da LP, in 2000 and was excitedly working on a few new projects as recent as November, according to the Rolling Stone. Not only was he gearing up to pay homage to those who were instrumental in his life in the EP Give Thanks, but a full LP entitled Muttymorphosis is “basically [his] life story,” which was also in production.

We can only hope that we’ll be blessed with his last words, thoughts, and reflections of his life sooner than later. Until then, join me in blasting all the ATCQ we can muster: “When’s the last time you heard a funky diabetic?” Possibly never again. RIP.

As we all mourn, musicians and friends and fans are pouring out their hearts to the legend as well. Here's a few:

Chuck D

DJ Kalkutta

Foreign Beggars

Mel D Cole

Jill Scott

Marc Lamont Hill

Mark Ronson


Combat Jack

Davey D

 And just in case you wanted to cry a little more…


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

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