Phife Dawg, Founder of A Tribe Called Quest, Dies at 45

Rapper, whose real name was Malik Taylor, battled diabetes and even underwent a kidney transplant in 2008

Phife Dawg

A Tribe Called Quest founding member Phife Dawg has died. The rapper, real name Malik Taylor, was 45.

No official statement has been released yet, nor a cause of death. Taylor battled Type 1 diabetes for a long time, however, even undergoing a kidney transplant in 2008. The donor was his wife.

Taylor, a self-described sugar addict, said in an interview last year that he was on the list for another kidney transplant.

While the emcee’s passing appears to have been first broken by friends on Twitter, Rolling Stone was able to confirm the news.

A Tribe Called Quest exploded on the hip-hop scene with 1991s “The Low End Theory,” the group’s second album. It came a year after “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,” which was critically received, but never crossed over to the mainstream. The guys release three more albums in the ’90s.

In 2011, actor Michael Rapaport directed a documentary about the crew, titled “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest.”

Tribe’s Q-Tip enjoyed the most solo success of the group, which also included DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad. For “Instinctive Travels,” Tribe had a fourth emcee, Jarobi White. White rejoined the crew for a 2006 reunion.

Phife, a major sports fan who often appeared on ESPN, was affectionately referred to as the “Five Foot Assassin,” due to his short stature.