UPDATE: Phife Dawg's family confirmed his death to E! News Wednesday. "We regret to share the news that on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, Malik has passed away due to complications resulting from diabetes," the family said in a statement. "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 family also asked for privacy during their time of grief. Similarly, the rapper's manager, Dion Liverpool, expressed his grief in a statement. "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," he said Wednesday. "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."
A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg has died at age 45.
News of his passing emerged on Twitter overnight, and Rolling Stone confirmed his death Wednesday morning; an official statement has yet to be released. Born Malik Taylor in 1970, he suffered from health issues in recent years, undergoing a kidney transplant in 2008 to deal with his longtime battle with Type 1 diabetes. "It's really a sickness," Taylor said in the band's 2011 documentary, Beats, Rhymes & Life. "Like straight-up drugs. I'm just addicted to sugar."
Taylor co-founded A Tribe Called Quest in 1985 with, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, his classmates from Queens, New York; a fourth band member, Jarobi White, left the group after the release of their first album. Together, the rappers recorded five albums: 1990's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, 1991's The Low End Theory, 1993's Midnight Marauders, 1996's Beats, Rhymes and Life and 1998's The Love Movement. Taylor released his only solo album, Ventilation: Da LP, in 2000. The trio broke up and reunited multiple times following the release of their last album, and they would sporadically reunite for live concerts.
Last November, A Tribe Called Quest reissued their debut album. The group's performance of "Can I Kick It?" on NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon would end up being their last.
As news of Taylor's death spread, fans and friends shared their condolences via social media:
Phife forever 1970-2016. 1991 in Sept I went to visit Tariq at Millersville U in the middle of PA (Lancaster). Miles Davis had just passed & I went on a binge to study his post jazz works. Went to Sound Of Market to purchase Nefertiti, In A Silent Way & Live Evil---the only non jazz purchase I made that day ironically was the most jazziest album in that collection: #TheLowEndTheory by @ATCQ. ---it was raining that day so somehow the 1...2 punch of "Nefertiti"/"Fall" just had me in a trance that train trip---even though I suspected there was a possibility that Tribe could possibly have made a better album then their debut (the perfect @@@@@ mic Source rating would be on stands in a week so I was right)---but I knew I wanted to save that listening for when I got up to the campus w Riq.---so some 90mins later when I get to his dorm--we ripped that bad boy open (I can't describe the frustration that was CD packaging in 1991, just imagine the anger that environmentalists feel when all that paper packaging in Beats headphone gets wasted---it's like that)---the sign of a true classic is when a life memory is burnt in your head because of the first time you hear a song. ---Riq & I had this moment a few times, but the look on our faces when we 1st heard "Buggin Out" was prolly Me & Tariq's greatest "rewind selector!" moment in our friendship. (Back then every MC's goal was to have that "rewind!!!" moment. As in to say something so incredible. Or to catch you by surprise that it makes you go "DAAAAAYUM!!!"& you listen over & over---Malik "Phife" Taylor's verse was such a gauntlet/flag planting moment in hip hop. Every hip hop head was just...stunned HE. CAME. FOR. BLOOD & was taking NO prisoners on this album (or ever again) we just kept looking at the speaker on some disbelief old timey radio Suspense episode. & also at each other "Phife is KILLIN!"--by the time we got to "Scenario" I swear to god THAT was the moment I knew I wanted to make THIS type of music when I grew up--(yeah yeah dad I know: "go to Juilliard or Curtis to make a nice living at "real music") but he didn't know that Phife & his crew already wrote my destiny. I ain't look back since. THANK YOU PHIFE!
(Originally published on Wednesday, March 23, 2016, at 6:12 a.m. PDT.)