Update: Phife’s family released a statement on Wednesday morning indicating that his cause of death was related to his diabetes. Read the statement in full below.
News broke early Wednesday morning that Malik Isaac Taylor A.K.A. Phife Dawg, one third of the legendary A Tribe Called Quest, passed away at age 45. Details regarding the cause of death are unknown at this time.
Phife and Tribe rose to prominence in the 1990s as members of the Native Tongue’s collective. They released five albums together and were widely acclaimed for pushing the boundaries of rap’s sound as the still young genre began to blossom. The group cemented their legacy very early with their first three albums – People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, The Low End Theory, and Midnight Marauders – with Phife playing the sports-loving, jovial lyricist able to pack a punch his words. After the group split, the “Five Foot Assassin” released one solo project of his own, Ventilation: Da LP, in 2000.
Last November, Phife told Rolling Stone, “I am in a good spot, but I have my good days and I have my bad days. But I’m more or less in a good spot, so I can’t really complain.” At the time, he was preparing to drop an album, Give Thanks, that unfortunately have yet to be released. In February 2014, he did release “Dear Dilla,” a tribute track to the revered Detroit producer who worked with ATCQ on later projects.
Throughout his career, Phife battled diabetes publicly, once calling himself “the funky diabetic” on one of their singles, “Oh My God.” His struggle with his illness also was captured in the 2011 documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest and, in 2008, he was able to undergo a kidney transplant. There’s no word whether his the disease played a role in his untimely death.
Hip-hop, as a culture, truly lost one of its favorite golden era icons.
Update: Here’s a full statement from the MC’s family regarding his passing.
“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.”
Dion Liverpool, his manager adds, “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.”
The family asks that their privacy be respected at this difficult time.