A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg dies at age 45

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    Slight in stature, big with bravado and abundant with the rhymes: other MCs may have eclipsed him physically, but none will ever fill the void left in the world of hip-hop by today's passing of Malik Taylor, AKA Phife Dawg of the pioneering NY collective A Tribe Called Quest. He was 45 years old.

    For hip-hop fans who enjoyed a more cerebral and copasetic approach, A Tribe Called Quest represented a breath of fresh air among the more aggressive of their ilk. Introduced to the public as an offshoot of the Native Tongues movement (which included The Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, Monie Love and Quee Latifah, to name a few), Phife Dawg was the fiery counterpart to cooler rhymes delivered by his childhood friend Johnathan Davis, AKA Q-Tip. With Jarobi and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, ATCQ carved a space for themselves among the crowd of rap groups with their jazz-heavy and witty 1989 debut, People's Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm

    Slight in stature, big with bravado and abundant with the rhymes: other MCs may have eclipsed him physically, but none will ever fill the void left in the world of hip-hop by today's passing of Malik Taylor, AKA Phife Dawg of the pioneering NY collective A Tribe Called Quest. He was 45 years old.

    For hip-hop fans who enjoyed a more cerebral and copasetic approach, A Tribe Called Quest represented a breath of fresh air among the more aggressive of their ilk. Introduced to the public as an offshoot of the Native Tongues movement (which included The Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, Monie Love and Quee Latifah, to name a few), Phife Dawg was the fiery counterpart to cooler rhymes delivered by his childhood friend Johnathan Davis, AKA Q-Tip. With Jarobi and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, ATCQ carved a space for themselves among the crowd of rap groups with their jazz-heavy and witty 1989 debut, People's Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm

    In the span of just nine years, ATCQ created five gold and platinum-selling CDs, creating hits that are largely regarded as some of the most influential and inspiring in the history of hip-hop (esp. those from The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders). According to the Grammy-Award winning documentary "Beats, Rhymes and Life," which was named after a Tribe LP and followed up with the group after their dissolution in 1998, Taylor’s trademark exchange with Q-Tip that surfaced in many of their rhymes ----"You on point Phife? Once again Tip!"----arose from his constant tardiness to the studio early in their budding careers. 

    As each LP dropped and Phife Dawg came into his own as an MC on tracks like "Buggin' Out," "Butter," "Award Tour" and "Electric Relaxation," to name a few, he and Tip began to clash over the direction of Tribe: Phife refused to promote the 4th CD, Beats, Rhymes and Life, and by the time 1998's The Love Movement dropped, the collective had called it quits (except for Tip and Phife exchanging personal jabs in the press). Phife made his solo debut with the moderately successful Ventilation, The LP, in 2000. The artists’ differences seemed to be put aside in later years, however, as Phife's diabetes grew worse and ATCQ reunited for shows in 2011 that helped pay his escalating medical bills. 

    After Phife’s wife donated a kidney to him in 2008, fans were hopeful for another full-scale reunion tour, but the last they would witness of a ATCQ performance was their 2015 appearance on the Jimmy Fallon show, which capitalized on the 25th anniversary release of their seminal debut. Old school and new rappers alike were quick to Tweet condolences, share favorite Phife rhymes and rue the moment that they learned of one of hip-hop's most memorable and mesmerizing performers would now forever remain silent. 

    By Melody Charles

     
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