Today in Hip-Hop: R.I.P. Phife Dawg (November 20, 1970 – March 22, 2016)
On this day, March 22, in hip-hop history...
As an original member of Queens rap crew A Tribe Called Quest, Phife Dawg (born Malik Taylor) was instrumental in crafting Tribe's pioneering hip-hop sound. The Five Foot Assassin was known for delivering raunchy, self-deprecating bars with just the right amount of candor.
On March 22, 2016, it began to circulate that Phife Dawg had passed away. It was later confirmed by Phife's family in a public statement. “We regret to share the news that on Tuesday March 22nd, 2016, Malik has passed away due to complications resulting from diabetes," read the release. The rapper was 45 years old.
When news of Phife's untimely death broke, it sent ripples through hip-hop. Rappers from all across the industry showed love on social media and in memorial songs for Phife. Q-Tip in particular delivered a touching message online to his best friend, writing, “I miss my lil brotha so much right now…He is my hero. I’ve never seen such a fighter. I’m sure u have been through this as well but know that in death there is signs and gifts abound. He left me with the gift of unconditional love and brotherhood. That will NEVER be lost with me…Ever. I take comfort in knowing that divine order is certain…I take pride in having the blessing knowing and having Malik in my life.”
Later that March, ATCQ held a public funeral for their fallen soldier at New York's Apollo Theater where Kanye West spoke on Phife's legacy and influence on hip-hop. Rappers would continue to mourn all throughout the year.
In August of 2016, ATCQ announced that they would be dropping their last album as a group, which would include all new material from Phife Dawg. With anticipation at an all time high, Tribe dropped their LP We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service in November. The project automatically shot to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking Tribe's first appearance on the charts in 20 years, and was hailed as one of the best rap albums of 2016. For fans who still want to check his rhimes, Phife's widow, Desha Taylor, announced that the rapper's posthumous album is on the way.
R.I.P. Phife Dawg.
Hip-Hop Reacts to Phife Dawg's Death