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:
Mel D Cole
Marc Lamont Hill
And just in case you wanted to cry a little more…