2016 takes another one. A Tribe Called Quest rapper Phife Dawg has passed away at the age of 45. Cause of death is unconfirmed but Malik Taylor aka Phife Dawg had Type 1 diabetes and ill health over the last number of years that included to a kidney transplant from his wife in 2008.
Malik Taylor was part of the seminal ’90s rap group A Tribe Called Quest along with Q-Tip, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. The New York group released five albums from 1990 to 1998, most notably the 1991’s Low End Theory and 1993’s Midnight Marauders.
Q-Tip and Phife Dawg’s relationship became turbulent and the group broke up and reunited a few times over the years. Much of that turbulence was documented in the 2011 film Beats, Rhymes & Life.
Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders remain two of my favourite rap albums.
Phife was one of my favourite rappers too. His hyperactive high-pitched flow was a perfect foil to Q-Tip’s smoother laidback delivery. Their juxtaposition made A Tribe Called Quest so important, so magnetic. I was introduced to Tribe through the Beastie Boys album Ill Communication, which Q-Tip featured on. The interplay between the two meant that they were/are my go-to pure rap group. Rest in peace Phife Dawg.