Phife Dawg, 45Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Known to fans as Phife Dawg, Malik Taylor was a hip-hop pioneer who was just as comfortable dropping political references as he was self-deprecating rhymes. Brashly diminutive, with a helium-high voice, Phife rose to fame in the early ’90s as a member of A Tribe Called Quest, whose gritty, socially progressive rap took notes from bohemian and jazz influences. A true creative force, Phife kept working until his death due to diabetes-related complications in March.
Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
"Hip-hop and rap word warrior, simple as that. Breathed it and lined rhyme into sport. A true fire social narrator."- Chuck D
Phife Dawg attends the 2011 premiere of “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest,” a documentary that chronicled the group’s rocky 2008 reunion tour, as well as Phife’s diabetes-related health problems.
A portrait of Phife circa 1990 shows the rapper in his youth. A precocious talent, he met his future collaborator Q-Tip as a child. A Tribe Called Quest also included the producer and D.J. Ali Shaheed Muhammad and, at times, the rapper Jarobi.
It’s an untimely loss for Tribe, whose members had repaired strained relationships to make their first album in 18 years. Seven months after Phife’s death, A Tribe Called Quest released “We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service,” which would become their first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 20 years.
"When you say, ‘A Tribe Called Quest,’ we wanted people to say, ‘That whole opus was crazy.’"- Phife
Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post/Getty Images
Before Phife died, he had finished his second solo album, which he said would tell "basically my life story." The long-awaited record will also serve as the final chapter of his legacy: according to his wife, Deisha Taylor, it will be released sometime in 2017.