Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor), one of the pure geniuses and founding members of A Tribe Called Quest, has died at just 45 years old. Though an official cause of death has not yet been released, Phife has had a 25-year battle with Type 1 diabetes.
Diagnosed in 1990, just weeks after the release of Tribe’s first album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,” when Phife heard the news, he admits, “I thought it was over.” But he fought on bravely, receiving dialysis treatment, and eventually a kidney transplant in 2008. In the 2011 documentary, “Beats, Rhymes & Life,” Phife spoke about his illness, saying, "It's really a sickness. Like straight-up drugs. I'm just addicted to sugar."
A true master of rhyme and lyrical genius, Phife often made light of topics others would shy away from, rapping about his diminutive stature (he was 5’3”), with lines like, “And me the five footer, I kicks the mad style so step off the frankfurter.” In the song “Oh My God” he even rapped about his disease, asking, “When’s the last time you heard a funky diabetic?”
His passing is deeply felt by hip-hop fans and superstars alike, with people taking to social media to pay homage to him at #RIPPhifeDawg and #RIPPhife, including everyone from Chuck D to Questlove to Kendrick Lamar. Here’s to a true hip-hop legend. You'll be smooth like butter forever in our book.