Phife Dawg

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Phife Dawg
Phife Dawg in 1999
Phife Dawg in 1999
Background information
Birth nameMalik Izaak Taylor
Also known asPhife, Phife Dawg, The Phifer, Phife Diggy, The Five-Foot Assassin, The Five-Footer, Malik The Five-Foot Freak, The Funky Diabetic, Dynomutt, Mutty Ranks, The Trini-Gladiator, Don Juice, Dr. Pepper
Born(1970-11-20)November 20, 1970
Queens, New York, U.S.
DiedMarch 22, 2016(2016-03-22) (aged 45)
Oakley, California, U.S.
GenresHip hop
Years active1985–2016[1]
LabelsJive, Groove Attack Records
Associated actsA Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, J Dilla, Hi-Tek, Pete Rock, Busta Rhymes, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, TLC

Malik Izaak Taylor[2] (November 20, 1970 – March 22, 2016), known professionally as Phife Dawg (or simply Phife), was an American rapper and a member of the group A Tribe Called Quest with Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (and for a short time Jarobi White). He was also known as the "Five-Foot Assassin" and "The Five-Footer", because he stood at 5 feet 3 inches (1.60 m).


Phife Dawg formed A Tribe Called Quest, then simply named Quest, with childhood friend Q-Tip and DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad in 1985;[1] the group was later expanded with the addition of Jarobi White. A Tribe Called Quest were closely associated with fellow hip-hop acts De La Soul and Jungle Brothers, with the groups being collectively known as the Native Tongues.[3] A Tribe Called Quest were initially offered a demo deal by Geffen Records in 1989, but signed to Jive Records to release their 1990 début People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.[3]

Phife Dawg's contributions to the group increased on their second album, 1991's The Low End Theory, which saw Phife—often referring to himself as "the Five-Foot Assassin"—rapping about social and political issues; the record has since been acclaimed by critics and fellow musicians.[3] The group released three further albums throughout the decade—Midnight Marauders in 1993, Beats, Rhymes and Life in 1996, and The Love Movement in 1998—before disbanding as a result of conflict both with their record label and between members. The band's troubles, especially the sometimes tense relationship between Phife and Q-Tip, were featured in the 2011 documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, directed by Michael Rapaport.[3]

In addition to being a member of pioneering hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, Phife performed on songs with other artists. He was featured on the Fu-Schnickens song "La Schmoove", Diamond D's "Painz & Strife" with Pete Rock, and Chi-Ali's "Let the Horns Blow" with Dres, Al' Tariq and Trugoy. In 2000, he released his debut solo album, Ventilation: Da LP. In 2013, it was reported that Phife was working on a solo album titled MUTTYmorPHosis.[4] A single titled "Sole Men" was released one day after Phife's death (March 23, 2016) along with a posthumously released music video.[5] Another single, "Nutshell", was released online in April 2016 along with a posthumously released music video.[3]

On November 13, 2015, A Tribe Called Quest reunited for a performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.[6] That night, Phife and Q-Tip decided to put aside their differences and record a new group album, We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, in secrecy.[6] Phife spent four months working on the album before his death; it was completed by the surviving group members and released on November 11, 2016.[6] In February 2017, it was announced that Phife's second studio album, posthumously titled Forever, would be released later in the year. The single "Wanna Dance" was released that month and features Dwele and Mike City.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Phife Dawg was born as Malik Izaak Taylor to Cheryl Allison Boyce-Taylor and Walt Taylor on November 20, 1970. He was born prematurely and his twin Mikal died shortly after birth. His mother, a poet, was born in Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, later moving to the St. Albans neighborhood of Queens, New York when she was 13 years old.[8] Phife described himself as a "West Indian" of Trinidadian descent.[9] He was a cousin of writer Zinzi Clemmons.[10]

Phife was an avid sports fan and was featured on various radio shows and sports programming on ESPN.[11] He was also a playable character in the video games NBA 2K7 and NBA 2K9.

Phife was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus in May 1990. Conflicting reports indicate it as type 1,[12][13] while other sources report it as type 2.[14][15] He mentioned being a "funky diabetic" in the single "Oh My God" from the group's third album, Midnight Marauders.[16] After being on a waiting list for two years,[17][18][19][20] Phife received a kidney transplant from his wife in 2008. It was unsuccessful, however, and by 2012 he once again required a transplant.[14]


Phife died at the age of 45 in his home in Contra Costa County, California, on March 22, 2016, due to complications related to diabetes.[14][21][22]


Phife has been described as having had a "self-deprecating swagger", and his work with A Tribe Called Quest helped to challenge the "macho posturing" of rap and hip-hop music during the late 1980s and early 1990s.[14] Phife's work has been cited as an influence on Kanye West, Jill Scott, The Roots and Common,[3] while the 1991 album The Low End Theory is considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever released.[14]

On November 19, 2016, a portion of Linden Boulevard, at the intersection of 192nd Street in St. Albans, was honorarily renamed as Malik 'Phife Dawg' Taylor Way.[23] The location is significant, as it was the site of the music video for A Tribe Called Quest's song "Check the Rhime".


Studio albums[edit]

Guest appearances[edit]

List of guest appearances
Title Year Other performer(s) Album
"Buddy (Native Tongue Decision)" 1989 De La Soul, Q-Tip, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, Monie Love Buddy (VLS)
"Let the Horns Blow" 1992 Chi-Ali, Dres, Fashion, Trugoy the Dove The Fabulous Chi-Ali
"La Schmoove" Fu-Schnickens F.U. Don't Take It Personal
"Where Ya At?" 1993 Shaquille O'Neal Shaq Diesel
"Giggin' on 'Em"
"Intro-lude" 1994 TLC CrazySexyCool
"Who Got the Funk" 1995 Science of Sound Kaleidoscope Phonetics
"Artical" Whitey Don, Chip Fu Artical (VLS)
"Game Day" 1996 Rodney Hampton NFL Jams
"Painz & Strife" 1997 Diamond D, Pete Rock Hatred, Passions and Infidelity
"Let Me Be the One (Ummah Remix Featuring Phife)" Mint Condition Let Me Be the One (VLS)
"All I Do (Jay Dee's Shit! Mix)" Somethin' for the People All I Do (CDS)
"Never Say Goodbye" 1998 Adriana Evans Ride soundtrack
"Phife's Speech" 2000 Ambivalence Electric Treatment
"What's da Deal"
"Hold Ya Karna" Mastermind, Nefarius Mastermind Presents Volume 50: Street Legal
"In My Mind (Dodge's Main Mix)" 2001 Al Jarreau Tomorrow Today (Reissue)
"In My Mind (Dodge's Melodic Mix)"
"Solo Movement" K-Mel Reflexions Vol. 1
"Take You There" 2002 AK1200 Shoot to Kill
"Nah Mean" 2003 Must B 21
"How It's Gonna Be" 2004 Truth Enola 6 O'Clock Straight
"How It's Gonna Be (Remix)" Ten Past 6
"Scheming" 2010 Slum Village, Posdnuos Villa Manifesto
"Tell the Whole City" 2011 Consequence Movies on Demand 2
"They Say (Legendary Remix)" T3, Rapper Big Pooh 3illa Madness
"Dues n Donts" 2012 Oh No, José James Ohnomite
"Seek Well" 2013 CJ Fly, A La Sole Thee Way Eye See It
"Push It Along" 2015 Slum Village Yes!
"All Around the World" 2018 Black Eyed Peas, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Posdnuos Masters of the Sun Vol. 1
"No Place Like Home" 2019 Consequence N/A



  1. ^ a b Lewis, Miles (October 1998). "After the Love is Gone". The Source. L. Londell McMillan.
  2. ^ "Ghostface Killah, Jay Electronica and Others Honor 'Phife Dawg'". Hip-Hop Wired. January 20, 2010. Archived from the original on August 31, 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Chavez, Danette (March 23, 2016). "R.I.P. Malik "Phife Dawg" Taylor, co-founder of A Tribe Called Quest". The A.V. Club. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  4. ^ WENN (November 28, 2013). "A Tribe Called Quest | Phife Dawg Pens Song Tribute To J. Dilla". Retrieved November 28, 2013.
  5. ^ Steve Petersen (March 23, 2016), "Sole Men" Music Video | Phife Dawg, retrieved February 11, 2018
  6. ^ a b c Touré (November 2, 2016). "Loss Haunts A Tribe Called Quest's First Album in 18 Years". The New York Times. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Johnson, Cherise (February 14, 2017). "Phife Dawg's Posthumous Solo Album To Be Titled "Forever"". Hip-Hop DX.
  8. ^ "Cheryl Boyce-Taylor". The Ubuntu Biography Project by Stephen A. Maglott. December 6, 2017. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  9. ^ "Phife Dawg: His Name Is Mutty Ranks". HipHopDX. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  10. ^ Clemmons, Zinzi (March 25, 2016). "A Gritty Little Something on the New York Street". The Paris Review.
  11. ^ "Phife Dawg, Rapper". Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  12. ^ "Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest Has Passed Away, But His Legacy Lives On". VH1 News. Retrieved November 28, 2016.
  13. ^ Maslow, Nick (March 23, 2016). "Phife Dawg Dead: A Tribe Called Quest Rapper Honored on Social Media". People. Retrieved November 28, 2016.
  14. ^ a b c d e Savage, Mark (March 23, 2016). "Tribe Called Quest star Phife Dawg dies aged 45". BBC News. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  15. ^ Renshaw, David (March 23, 2016). "Phife Dawg Of A Tribe Called Quest Reportedly Dead At 45". NME. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  16. ^ High, Kamau (October 2, 2008). "The Cool Kids To Headline 'NBA2K9' Tour". Billboard. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  17. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Rapper Phife Receives Kidney Transplant". October 24, 2008.
  18. ^ WENN (October 27, 2008). "Phife Dawg Gets Kidney Transplant". Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  19. ^ "A Tribe Called Quest Rapper, Phife Dawg Gets Kidney Transplant". Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  20. ^ "Rapper PHIFE DAWG Receives Long Awaited Kidney Transplant". MAD NEWS. October 24, 2008. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  21. ^ Brandle, Lars (March 23, 2016). "Phife Dawg, Founding Member of A Tribe Called Quest, Dead at 45". Billboard. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  22. ^ Meline, Gabe (March 23, 2016). "Why Phife Mattered: Remembering Hip-Hop's Relatable MC". KQED. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  23. ^ Kim, Michelle (November 19, 2016). "NYC Street Is Now Officially Named After A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg". The Fader.

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