Entertainment & Arts

Phife Dawg: A Tribe Called Quest say they are 'devastated' by his death

Members of A Tribe Called Quest: Consequence, Phife Dawg, Q-Tip, Jacobi White Image copyright Reuters
Image caption "He wasn't in pain. He was happy," said A Tribe Called Quest of their former bandmate (L-R: Consequence, Phife Dawg, Q-Tip, Jacobi White)

The surviving members of A Tribe Called Quest say they are "devastated" by the death of founder member Phife Dawg.

In a statement released late on Wednesday night, the band called the rapper's contribution to music "seismic and hard to measure".

Born Malik Taylor, the New Yorker died on Tuesday from complications resulting from diabetes. He was 45.

Tributes have poured in from hip-hop contemporaries Chuck D and Nas, as well as Sean Lennon and Mark Ronson.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar held an impromptu vigil for Phife Dawg on stage in Sydney, encouraging 18,000 fans to chant Phife's name for more than a minute.

"We're gonna give it up for him, for allowing me to do what I'm doing on this stage right here, right now, today," said the star.


"Our hearts are heavy. We are devastated," said A Tribe Called Quest in its statement.

"This is something we weren't prepared for although we all know that life is fleeting. It was no secret about his health and his fight. But the fight for his joy and happiness gave him everything he needed. The fight to keep his family happy, his soul happy and those around him happy, gave him complete and unadulterated joy… until he heeded his father's call."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The interplay between Phife and Q-Tip was a key part of A Tribe Called Quest's sound

"We love his family, his mother, his father, his son, his wife, his nieces, his family here in New York, Atlanta, California and Trinidad."

The statement continued: "His music and what he's contributed is seismic and hard to measure. He's affected us as much as he's affected all of you. We're inspired by his daily joy and courage. He wasn't in pain. He was happy."

Phife has suffered from type 2 diabetes for several years, requiring a kidney transplant in 2008.

His health problems and self-proclaimed sugar addiction emerged as a point of tension in a 2011 documentary about A Tribe Called Quest's reunion tour.

But he was remembered for his frenetic, socially-conscious rhymes; as well as his witty repartee with A Tribe Called Quest co-star Q-Tip.

"He got me through some real times growing up," said rap star Nas. "Before I ever travelled to different countries, before I had ever been in the control room of a high-level recording facility, Phife and A Tribe Called Quest were in charge of the soundtrack of my teenage years.

"They made you move and think at the same time. He had presence, and together they sparked a cultural revolution. Through that music, Phife was my homie, older brother, mentor, teacher, wing-man, jokester, a trillion different things.

"He helped kicked down huge steel doors around the world so that guys like me could walk thru them with ease. He's a legend!"

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mark Ronson, Chuck D and Nas all shared their memories of Phife

Questlove, drummer and bandleader for The Roots, also attributed his career to Phife, recalling the first time he listened to A Tribe Called Quest's seminal album The Low End Theory in a lengthy Instagram post.

"I swear to God THAT was the moment I knew I wanted to make THIS type of music when I grew up," he wrote.

British rapper Monie Love, who worked with A Tribe Called Quest in the 1990s, told Billboard Phife brought "the fun and the technique" to A Tribe Called Quest.

"It was just always bubbly and fun; he brought the comedy," she told Billboard. "His lines were always the funniest lines in every song."

Sean Lennon shared a photograph of his Mellotron keyboard, which had been signed by Phife, saying he was "thinking of all the great music he brought us".

"[I] refuse to believe this," added Mark Ronson. "Phife Dawg made some of the most beloved hip hop ever. It's so sad that he's gone. I'd have gone to every reunion show till the end of time."

Chuck D of Public Enemy simply posted a mural of the star with the caption: "Rest In Beats".

Disco legend Nile Rodgers added: "Love to his fam[ily]. I know Tribe was working on a new record. So sad."

"Thank you for the outpouring of prayers and support from the fans, fellow artists, music outlets, blogs, radio stations, DJs, social media and the music community at large," said A Tribe Called Quest in its statement. "His family is overwhelmed by the support, well wishes and are thankful.

"We take comfort in knowing he will be beside his grandmother."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The band's hits included Bonita Applebum, Award Tour, Jazz (We've Got) and Scenario
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Phife Dawg had been working on a solo album in the months leading up to his death

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