A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg Dies at 45

The group was born and bred in New York, but one of their biggest hits ties them to L.A.

A Tribe Called Quest’s Malik Taylor, known by his stage name, Phife Dawg, died last night at the age of 45. The rapper passed away from complications with diabetes.

Born in 1970 in Queens, New York, Taylor was childhood friends with Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, known as Q-Tip. Fareed and Taylor formed A Tribe Called Quest in the mid-1980s with DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammed and fellow rapper Jarobi White.

Taylor was known for his grittier voice and down-to-earth lyrics compared to Tip’s galactic, ethereal bars and tone. Between 1990 and 1998, the group released five albums. Their debut LP, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, included several major hits that put them on tastemakers’ radars: Bonita ApplebumCan I Kick It?, and I Left My Wallet in El Segundo.

Tribe was most certainly a New York group, but El Segundo linked them to SoCal forever. The story, told by Q-Tip, follows the band as they take a road trip across the country while Tip’s mother is out of town. After stopping at a restaurant in El Segundo, Tip is distracted by a beautiful waitress and leaves his wallet on the counter. By the time he realizes it, he and the rest of the group are already back in New York. The video features the whole group in a car, bobbing down the interstate from east coast to west.

Taylor influenced a new generation of artists, and since his death was announced last night, the music community has been paying its respects. Rapper Mac Miller recorded a tribute song called 5 Foot Assassin, Talib Kwali penned an essay for Billboard in honor of Taylor, and Kendrick Lamar paid homage to Taylor onstage in Sydney last night.

In a statement, Taylor’s family says, “Malik was our loving husband, father, brother and friend. We love him dearly. How he impacted all our lives will never be forgotten. His love for music and sports was only surpassed by his love of God and family.”