Malik Taylor, aka Phife Dog of the hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, died today at the age of 45. Taylor suffered from diabetes. Tribe was one of the most influential hip-hop groups of the early 1990s and helped elevate rap to high art, with catchy hooks and rhymes that were both upbeat and political.
The NYC-based group used samples from a variety of genres, including the easily recognizable base intro to “Can I Kick It,” pulled from Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.” A Tribe Called Quest’s unique sound was influenced by jazz, funk and electronic music.
“It’s a real sickness. Like straight-up drugs. I’m just addicted to sugar even though I knew I had [diabetes] I was in denial… I had to have my sugar. You have to accept it. If you don’t accept it, it’s going to kick your ass,” he said.
Tribe dissolved in the 1990s, but continued to perform together sporadically. The five-foot-tall Malik will be remembered not only as a giant of hip-hop but as an MC who brought sensitivity to the genre without diluting its impact as resistance music.
Phife also worked with the now deceased J Dilla. After J Dilla died, Phife produced a solo tribute to his friend called Dear Dilla featuring the prophetic line, “Until we meet again JD, flip another beat for me.”