The internet is buzzing with news that legendary rapper Malik Isaac Taylor, known to the hip-hop community as Phife Dawg, has passed away. Taylor is a founding member of the legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, which burst onto the scene in the early 1990s with their seminal album Peoples Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. The album helped usher in a new era of hip-hop marked by jazz instrumentation, abstract lyrics, syncopated rhythms and a melodic musical style. A Tribe Called Quest was a part of the Native Tongues rap collective, a group of like minded rappers that infused rap with abstract art, movement and sounds committed to creating an alternative, more conscious type of hip-hop culture, much in the tradition of the Zulu Nation.
A rapper with Trinidadian roots, Taylor founded the pioneering group with fellow high school classmates Kamaal Ibn John Fareed (Q-Tip), Ali Shaheed and Jarobi White. Known as the “Five Foot Assassin,” Phife Dawg’s direct delivery punctuated by a brilliant play on words, complimented the cerebral, laid-back delivery of Q-Tip.
In 2011, actor/director Michael Rappaport released the documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, which examined the rise of the pioneering hip-hop group and the sometimes precarious relationship between Taylor and Fareed. In the documentary, Taylor’s ongoing battle with diabetes was chronicled.
In November of 2015, Taylor chose his favorite A Tribe Called Quest songs for Vulture Magazine. His list is as follows:
“Footprints,” People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990)
“Check the Rhime,” Low End Theory (1991)
“Lyrics to Go,” Midnight Marauders (1993)
“Wordplay,” Beats, Rhymes and Life (1996)
“Find a Way,” Love Movement (1998)
In the article, he spoke of the genius of Q-Tip and the late, great hip-hop producer J Dilla. A Tribe Called Quest officially split after The Love Movement album in 1998 and reunited periodically over the next decade. In 2000, Phife Dawg released his only solo album Ventilation: Da LP, featuring artists and producers like Pete Rock, Hi-Tek and Supa Dave West.
Members of the music community including Chuck Chillout and 9th Wonder reported on Twitter and Instagram that Phife Dawg had passed away at age 45. R.I.P. to a hip-hop legend.
Read more at The Source.
This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual.