Phife Dawg dead: A Tribe Called Quest co-founder dies aged 45

Real name Malik Taylor, he created the iconic rap group with Q-Tip in 1985 

The US rapper Phife Dawg, real name Malik Taylor, has died aged 45. 

One of the founding members of the pioneering rap group A Tribe Called Quest, Taylor grew up with co-founder Q-Tip in Queens, New York. 

His cause of death is not known, but Taylor had suffered health issues for years after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He underwent a kidney transplant in 2008, which he received from his wife, describing his love of sugar in a 2011 documentary as comparable to a drug addiction: “I'm just addicted to sugar.” 

The diminutive musician, known as the Five Foot Assassin and the Five Footer because of his small stature, appeared on four songs on a Tribe Called Quest’s debut album, including “Can I Kick It?” His distinctive voice set him apart from other rappers but he later told Rolling Stone that he hated the sound of himself on that album. Aged 19, he wasn’t officially a member of A Tribe Called Quest when he recorded People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, describing himself as “really a support thing for Tip and Ali [Shaheed Muhammad]” but his distinctive sound was ultimately an integral part of their success. 

A Tribe Called Quest celebrated the 25th anniversary of their first album in January. The group parted ways and reunited on numerous occasions after releasing their final album in 1998. Taylor released his only solo album, Ventilation: Da LP, in 2000. 

Reflecting back on the 25th anniversary, he described how surreal their popularity had been. “It's odd in a good way. I never expected it to be this big. I just thought we were going to be celebs in the hood. Like, honestly, within 25 years, when you go to places like Australia and Japan and Amsterdam and London and Germany and these people know [the songs] word-for-word, it's crazy.”

News of his death was announced by DJ Chuck Chillout on Twitter and met by an outpouring of tributes celebrating his contribution to hip-hop.

He appeared on all five studio albums. A Tribe Called Quest has not yet commented on his death.