Hip-hop and music fans all together mourn today as one of the great lyricists and rappers of our time has passed away today. According to his family and manager, Malik Taylor, better known as Phife Dawg of the popular hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, died today at age 45 due to complications with the rapper’s ongoing battle with diabetes. Tributes have been pouring in from artist such as Kendrick Lamar, who had 18,000 attendees at his performance chant “Phife Dawg” in memory, Chris Rock, Chance the Rapper, Questlove, who released a tweet with a tribute story for the late rapper, and plenty more continue to follow suit.
Malik Taylor, who was later recognized as Phife Dawg was born Nov. 22 1970 in Queens, NY. He met his fellow band members Q-tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad in high school and in 1985 they formed together to create A Tribe Called Quest and the Zulu Nation. Collaborating with fellow hip-hop legends De La Sol and Jungle Brothers, they grouped together to form Native Tongues, which was collaboration whose music focused on positive-minded and good natured Afrocentric lyrics, and using jazz as a strong influence on their music. In 1990 Quest released their debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm via Jive Records and is known as one of their greatest albums, tackling social issues, celebrating their Muslim faith and Heritage, and avoiding the use of profanities to deliver their messages. Once they were embraced by fans it did not take long for their second album Beats, Rhymes, and Life to top the music charts, making them one of the more popular soul-rap groups around with Phife Dawg as one of the main components.
Sadly, his family released a statement stating that Phife had passed away early in the morning. “We regret to share the news that on Tuesday March 22nd, 2016, Malik has passed away due to complications resulting from diabetes. Malik was our loving husband, father, brother and friend. We love him dearly. How he impacted all our lives will never be forgotten. His love for music and sports was only surpassed by his love of God and family”. This statement was followed up by the manager stating “While I mourn the loss of my best friend and brother, I also will celebrate his incredible life and contribution to many people’s ears across the world. Even with all his success, I have never met a person as humble as he. He taught me that maintaining a positive attitude and outlook can conquer anything. Now my brother is resting in greatness. I’m honored to have crossed paths with him. Riddim Kidz 4eva.”
Phife Dawg truly was an inspiration to so many artist and was one of the main movers of the golden age of rap, when drummer and hip-hop beats guru Questlove sat down with Pitchfork, he stated that when hearing the single “Scenario” he claimed “THAT was the moment I knew I wanted to make THIS type of music when I grew up” and posted a tribute photo with a long story about his relationship to the departed artist in the description. He also helped inspire many other artists in the hip-hop community such as Chance the Rapper, Talib Kweli, Kendrick Lamar who made fans tribute the deceased rapper with chants of his name, and plenty of others.
A Statement from A Tribe Called Quest was also released today which truly captures the impression Phife left.
“Our hearts are heavy. We are devastated. 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. The fight to keep his family happy, his soul happy and those around him happy, gave him complete and unadulterated joy… until he heeded his fathers call.We love his family his mother, his father, his son, his wife, his nieces, his family here in New York, Atlanta, California and Trinidad.Thank you for the outpouring of prayers and support from the fans, fellow artists, music outlets, blogs, radio stations, DJ’s, social media and the music community at large. This too is part of his joy and means a lot to him. His family is overwhelmed by the support, well wishes and are thankful. His music and what he’s contributed is seismic and hard to measure. He’s affected us as much as he’s affected all of you. We’re inspired by his daily joy and courage. He wasn’t in pain. He was happy.We take comfort in knowing he will be beside his grandmother.”
The hip-hop world would not be where it is today without the influence of Phife Dawg, his presence will be missed and the rap game will never be the same. However, his spirit and memory will always live in the hearts and souls of his family, friends, and fans.
RIP Phife Dawg