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Phife Dawg, Founding Member of A Tribe Called Quest, Dies at 45


Phife Dawg, a founding member of seminal Queens hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, has died at 45, Rolling Stone confirmed this morning (March 23).

The cause of the man born Malik Taylor’s death has yet to be officially announced, but he underwent a kidney transplant in 2008 and had lived with diabetes for decades (as he rapped in “Oh My God” off 1994’s Midnight Marauders: “Mr. Energetic/ Who me, sound pathetic? When’s the last time you heard a funky diabetic?”). Born in Jamaica, Queens, Taylor made friends with rapper Q-Tip in early childhood. Along with DJ-producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad and occasional early member Jarobi White, the two would go on to form A Tribe Called Quest in 1985.

In addition to Tribe’s five studio albums, including the platinum-selling The Low End Theory, Midnight Marauders and Beats, Rhymes & Life, Phife released a solo album titled Ventilation: DA LP in 2000. The group had split for the first time two years prior in 1998, though they reunited to perform intermittently over the years. Phife was currently working on a new album, titled MUTTYmorPHosis, which he described as “basically my life story” and intended to release later in 2016.

“I never expected it to be this big,” he said, reflecting on the band’s success in a 2015 Rolling Stone interview. “I just thought we were going to be celebs in the hood.”

Upon learning of his death, celebrities including Run the Jewels rapper El-P and DJ-producer A-Trak expressed their condolences.

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

My Mellotron was tagged by Phife. Thinking of all the great music he brought us. Malik Taylor R.I.P.

A photo posted by Sean Ono Lennon (@sean_ono_lennon) on

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