Early Wednesday, news broke that A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg had passed at age 45, with the likely cause owing to a long battle with diabetes, and a related kidney transplant from his wife in 2008. Now, the Queens rapper’s family has confirmed and released a statement via his publicist:
“We regret to share the news that on Tuesday March 22nd, 2016, Malik has passed away due to complications resulting from diabetes.
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.”
Dion Liverpool, his manager, adds, “While I mourn the loss of my best friend and brother, I also will celebrate his incredible life and contribution to many people’s ears across the world. Even with all his success, I have never met a person as humble as he. He taught me that maintaining a positive attitude and outlook can conquer anything. Now my brother is resting in greatness. I’m honored to have crossed paths with him. Riddim Kidz 4eva.”
The family asks that their privacy be respected at this difficult time.
Phife, born Malik Taylor, formed A Tribe Called Quest with Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad in 1988, which would pave a way for the jazz-influenced, alternative, Afrocentric East Coast rap of its collective Native Tongues in an era otherwise defined by street and gangster rap. The group would, of course, eventually became one of the most venerated and influential hip-hop groups of all time.
Phife had the lead verses on some of Tribe’s best known songs; on “Scenario,” from 1991’s Low End Theory, he defined himself as such:
I’m all that and then some, short, dark, and handsome
Bust a nut inside your eye to show you where I come from
I’m vexed, fuming, I’ve had it up to here
My days of paying dues are over, acknowledge me as in there (Yeah!)
On one of Phife’s most famous lyrics, from 1993’s “Electric Relaxation,” he presented himself as a smooth seducer:
I like ‘em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian
Name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation
Told you in the jam that we can get down
Now let’s knock the boots like the group H-Town
Phife Dawg is survived by his family, musical brothers, and legions of fans around the world.