Malik Taylor, known to fans of Hip-Hop the world over as Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, passed away yesterday (March 22) at the age of 45. No official cause of death has been revealed, but Phife had battled diabetes for much of his life and received a kidney transplant in 2008. I’ve spoken in the past about how much of an influence ATCQ was on me as a young Rap fan and Phife’s iconic verses were a huge part of that. We probably toss the word “legend” around a bit more than we should in this culture, but I am supremely confident in calling The 5 Foot Assassin a true legend of Rap.
Phife’s relationship with his group mates, specifically Q-Tip, was complicated and often fraught, just like the personal relationships many of us share. The fact that he was able to reunite with his partners for reunion performances over the past few years, and speak to their legacy in Michael Rappaport’s excellent documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life, was a blessing. We’ll always remember you Phife, you truly touched a generation, and your legacy is guaranteed.
UPDATED with a statement from Phife’s family on his passing below.
“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.”
UPDATED: Here’s a statement from Phife’s ATCQ brothers:
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.