Malik Isaac Taylor, more commonly known as Phife Dawg (The 5 Ft. Assassin), passed away March 23, 2016 at the age of 45. Most known for his participation in the iconic hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, Taylor passed away after a long battle with diabetes, a struggle he often rapped about (“When’s the last time you heard a funky diabetic?“).
Taylor was integral in creating the highly influential sound of A Tribe Called Quest. The complementary mix of Taylor’s higher pitched, blunt voice alongside the mellow flow of Q-Tip (Kamaal Ibn John Fareed) created an unprecedented sound that would go on to inspire renowned hip hop acts like Kanye West, The Roots and Common. A Tribe Called Quest is often cited as one of the most influential hip hop groups of all time, with beloved albums including Midnight Marauders and The Low End Theory.
Taylor was diagnosed with diabetes in May 1990 and underwent kidney transplants in 2008 and 2012. His poor health made it difficult for him to work and tour in later life. The impact of his health on the group was most recently shown in the documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest.
A Tribe Called Quest released the following official statement on their official site in response to Taylor’s passing:
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.
— ATCQ (@ATCQ) March 23, 2016
“I’m just a fly MC who’s 5’3″ and very brave.” Rest in peace, Phife, on behalf of music lovers of the world.