One of the most unique minds in music has died. Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest has passed away suddenly. He was 45 years old.
While his cause of death is currently unknown, the rapper was struggling with health problems for over two decades. He was diagnosed with diabetes in 1990, and received a kidney transplant in 2008.
DJ Chuck Chillout made the initial announcement early Wednesday morning (Mar. 23), while producer Statik Selektah confirmed the news via Twitter. The exact details of his passing were not immediately known, though renal disease has been referenced – a product of diabetes.
Born Malik Taylor, Phife was raised in Queens, where he developed a connection with Q-Tip at the age of two. Together with Ali Shaheed Muhammad, they formed A Tribe Called Quest in 1988. Their debut album is considered an essential of hip-hop: People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm is a magnificent offering that changed the trajectory of East Coast rap.
The group made five massively influential albums through 1998, when they would split – though reunions have ebbed and flowed since 2006. When scheduled to perform with Kanye West in 2013, Q-Tip called those the final Tribe shows. They performed one final time last year on “The Tonight Show” with the Roots.
Phife released a solo album in 2000, the Ventilation: Da LP, which featured production from J Dilla, Pete Rock, and others. He was last said to be working on a nine-song solo EP called Give Thanks, as well as a full-length called Muttymorphosis, both slated for 2016.
Check out two Phife-featured tracks below, and check out Vulture’s piece with Phife from last year wherein the MC lists his five favorite Tribe songs.