Phife Dawg: A Tribe Called Quest's 'Five Foot Assassin' Dies At 45

Val PowellLife

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The unexpected passing of the rapper Phife Dawg has certainly caused shock and grief in the hip-hop community, and numerous well-respected hip-hop artists have come out to honor his memory.

Rolling Stone magazine recently reported that Phife Dawg – Malik Taylor in real life – died on Wednesday, March 23, of “complications resulting from diabetes.” He was 45 years old and had been struggling from Type 2 diabetes for many years, and even received a kidney transplant in 2008 courtesy of his wife.

Born to Trinidadian immigrants in 1970 in Queens, New York, Phife Dawg joined his former high school classmates, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad to form the iconic hip-hop group, A Tribe Called Quest. While he didn’t get as much attention as his other co-members, Phife was anything but a supporting act. Known as the “Five Foot Assassin,” he joined ATCQ during a turning point in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when hip-hop was producing tracks that featured socially-conscious lyrics, Afrocentric ideas, and jazz sampling.

Questlove of The Roots was among the many hip-hop artists who paid their respects to the late rapper. In a lengthy tribute he posted on his Instagram page, Questlove made a touching account of how Phife Dawg influenced his music.

“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,” said Questlove of the moment he and Tariq Trotter listened to ATCQ’s The Low End Theory album.

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!

A photo posted by Questlove Gomez (@questlove) on

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,” he continued.

Questlove Remembers Phife Dawg through This Track

Phife Dawg also featured in several classic, albeit overlooked guest appearances, including “Let the Horns Blow” by Chi-Ali, “Ghost Weed” by De La Soul, and “La Schmoove” by Fu-Schnickens.

Val Powell
I'm a content writer, blogger, SEO enthusiast, visual artist, world traveler and lover of spicy foods. I also live and work in Queens, New York. FOLLOW ME on Twitter! @webnewsreporter or LIKE ME on Facebook! webnewsreporter