Phife Dawg, Group Member of ‘A Tribe Called Quest,’ Dead at 45

March 23, 2016 Updated: March 23, 2016
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Phife Dawg, founding member of the pioneering hip hop group, A Tribe Called Quest, has died at age 45, although an official statement has yet to be released.

Born Malik Taylor in Queens, New York, the rapper founded the late 1980s group alongside his classmates, Q-Tip (Kamaal Fareed) and Ali Shaheed Muhammed in the halls of Murray Bergtraum High School For Business Careers.  

Members of A Tribe Called QuestQ-Tip, Phife Dawg  (center) and Jarobi White. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
Members of A Tribe Called Quest: (L-R) Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Jarobi White. (Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

It was soon after the group would release their debut album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” under Jive records in 1990. Following that, they released critically acclaimed records “The Low End Theory” and “Midnight Marauders” in 1991 and 1993, respectively.

However, it wasn’t until 1996 that the trio would reach Billboard success, when their fourth album, “Beats, Rhymes and Life” peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. This album earned the group a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album before disbanding in 1998.

Phife Dawg, known for his high pitch voice and five foot stature, stood out among his fellow group mates. His other monikers include “Five Foot Assassin” and “The Five Footer.” 

When’s the last time you heard a funky diabetic?
— Phife Dawg, A Tribe Called Quest

The cause of death is unknown, however it is no secret that Phife Dawg suffered from medical issues. In a record titled, “Oh My God” on “Midnight Marauders” he rapped, ‘when’s the last time you heard a funky diabetic?’ He later received a kidney transplant from his wife in 2008 as a result of diabetes complications. However, in 2012 he needed another transplant and was back on dialysis.

In an interview with diabeteswithforecast.org, the Queens rapper spoke of his bout with dialysis. “I haven’t really spoken about being on dialysis again and needing another kidney,” he said in 2013. “It’s a strain on me as far as going where I want to go, doing what I want to do.”

Phife dawg, left behind mother, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, wife Deisha and stepson, David.