Rapper Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest dies at 45
Associated Press | 3/25/2016, 12:16 a.m.
Phife Dawg, a masterful lyricist whose witty wordplay was a linchpin of the groundbreaking hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, died Tuesday from complications resulting from diabetes, his family said in a statement on Wednesday. He was 45.
Born Malik Isaac Taylor, he was known as the “Five Foot Assassin” because he was 5 feet 3 inches tall.
“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,” the statement read.
The family did not disclose any other details.
Mr. Taylor, who earned respect for his skillful and thoughtful rhymes, was part of a number of rap classics with Tribe, including “Scenario,” ‘’Bonita Applebum,” ‘’Can I Kick It?” and “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo,” among others.
“I like ‘em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian, name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation,” he famously rapped on “Electric Relaxation.”
Mr. Taylor grew up in Queens, N.Y., with fellow Tribe member Q-Tip. In high school, the two met Ali Shaheed Muhammad, who is from Brooklyn, to form Tribe. Jarobi White later joined the group. The collective — known for its artistic songs and lyrics — recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of their debut album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.”
They were pioneers of rap, blending genres like jazz into hip-hop and offering rap fans a different sound and style than the gangsta rap that dominated airwaves at the time.
In a November interview, he was just as passionate about rap as he was when the Tribe launched its career. The group had some tense moments — seen in the 2011 documentary “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” — but thoughts of re-grouping were being considered. To celebrate the group’s 25th anniversary, they performed together on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
Mr. Taylor said he was ready to tour again with his band mates.