Hip-hop lost one of its MVPs this week. Malik Taylor, the 45-year-old rapper better known as Phife from A Tribe Called Quest, died Tuesday from complications resulting from Type 1 diabetes.
“Our hearts are heavy. We are devastated,” A Tribe Called Quest said in a statement issued online. “This is something we weren’t prepared for although we all know that life is fleeting.”
In an industry of excess, Phife was unarguably one of hip-hop’s most modest players. The Queens rapper was dubbed ‘The Five Foot Assassin’ because he stood 5’3” and was a battle-hungry emcee.
“I’m just thankful that we’re still relevant being that we haven’t dropped an album since 1998,” Phife told Bonafide last year. “People treat us like we have the newest music out there right now, and there’s so many people that are doing their thing, like J Cole to Kendrick Lamar and so forth, and they still want to hear Tribe at the end of the day? That’s pretty amazing to me and I’m just thankful.”
A Tribe Called Quest was your favorite artist’s favorite artist. The group inspired acts like Nas, Talib Kweli, Kendrick Lamar, and The Roots.
“A Tribe Called Quest was like nothing I had ever heard,” Questlove told Billboard. “It was stylish, funny, jazzy, soulful, smart and everything else. Tribe was socially conscious without being too self-conscious about it.”
The most touching tribute came from Phife’s mother, Cheryl Boyce Taylor:
“Malik made me so proud,” she posted on Facebook. “And he was a good and humble son. What holds me is that he brought joy through his music and sports, and that he lived a magical life.”