Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest has reportedly passed away

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According to reports from various outlets such as XXL, The Source, and Billboard, Phife Dawg, hip-hop pioneer and MC of A Tribe Called Quest, has passed away at the age of 45. The reports, which broke overnight, all seemingly trace back to a single tweet from DJ Chuck Chillout, a longtime New York radio broadcaster and member of the hip-hop community. Based on Chillout’s website, he was one of the first people to play A Tribe Called Quest in Japan, taking the foursome international.

While no official statement has been released, it has been publicly known that Malik Taylor, aka The Five Foot Assassin, had struggled with his health and diabetes for most of his life. In 2008, he received a kidney transplant. In 2011, the documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, had Taylor detail his struggles.

Back in November, I spoke to Phife Dawg for Noisey to commemorate the 25th anniversary of ATCQ’s debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm, in which I asked him to take me in a time machine back to 1990. According to Phife, he was still only being introduced to Tribe at the time and wasn’t a formal member until the release of The Low End Theory, although he was featured on four tracks of the debut record. What he did remember about the time period was kicking it at the studio near Madison Square Garden, going to the roller-skating rink in New Jersey weekly, and the first time he saw a Tribe record on the shelf at The Music Factory in Jamaica Avenue. Until his passing, Phife was a die-hard basketball fan and sports jersey collector, with a palette for good food and an undying love for hip-hop.

The last Instagram photo that Phife posted was on March 10 with DJ Rasta Root posing in front of the New York City skyline.

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In my November interview with Phife, I decided to keep the health out of it, I was sure people constantly fired off questions about his health and working with Q-Tip, but not about his own experiences. On the same day my interview ran, so did one in Rolling Stone. At its completion, he told reporter Jason Newman that he has his “good days and bad days,” but he couldn’t really complain. On the title of his EP, Give Thanks, which was due out in 2016, he told Rolling Stone, “I have a lot to be thankful for and it could be really worse. And that is another reason why it is ludicrous for us not to be performing right now and smelling these roses why we’re still here.”

It truly is a shame that A Tribe Called Quest didn’t get a chance to smell the roses on stage one last time. I am thankful for Phife’s contribution to hip-hop, and hope that his EP Give Thanks gets to see the light of day.

Derek Scancarelli

Derek Scancarelli is a feature writer, interviewer, videographer, photographer, radio-er and more. In 2015, he received his MA in Journalism in New York City. In addition to Under The Gun Review, Derek has worked with Noisey (VICE), Alternative Press, New Noise Magazine and many more. He also pushes some buttons at SiriusXM.

Comedian Jim Norton once called him a serial killer on national radio. Enjoy the internet with him on Twitter.
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  • Maia Leuterio

    Rhyme In Paradise Five Foot Assassin ❤ You are truly missed & will never be forgotten. Thank you for blessing us with your rhymes. Peace King