The hip-hop community was rocked with the news Wednesday that A Tribe Called Quest member and rapper Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor has passed. As a member of one of the most celebrated musical groups across any genre, Phife’s death was especially jarring to many.
The “Five-Foot Assassin” was born Malik Issac Taylor on November 20, 1970 to Trinidadian parents and raised in St. Albans, Queens, New York. In 1985, Phife and high school classmate Kamal “Q-Tip” Fareed formed the rap duo Quest which later became A Tribe Called Quest when fellow friends Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White joined the group.
As a collective, ACTQ released five studio albums, with their 1990 debut, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm enjoying its 25-year anniversary last year in a re-release. The quartet’s last album, The Love Movement, was released in 1998 and the group essentially broke up afterwards.
A 2011 documentary, Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, highlighted the rise of the group and the tensions between band front man Q-Tip and Phife. However, both gentlemen felt that director Michael Rappaport’s depiction of their troubles was overstated.
As a solo act, Phife did guest appearance cameos on several tracks over the years and was currently working on his second full-length album and EP. His first album, Ventilation, was released in 2000.