Malik Izaak Taylor[2] (November 20, 1970 – March 22, 2016), known professionally as Phife Dawg (or simply Phife), was an American rapper and a member of the group A Tribe Called Quest with Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (and for a short time Jarobi White). He was also known as the "Five-Foot Assassin" and "the Five-Footer", because he stood at 5 feet 3 inches (1.60 m).

Phife Dawg
Phife Dawg in 1999
Phife Dawg in 1999
Background information
Birth nameMalik Izaak Taylor
Also known asPhife, Phife Dawg, The Phifer, Phife Diggy, The Five-Foot Assassin, The Five-Footer, Malik The Five-Foot Freak, The Funky Diabetic, Dynomutt, Mutty Ranks, The Trini-Gladiator, Don Juice, Dr. Pepper
Born(1970-11-20)November 20, 1970
New York City, U.S.
DiedMarch 22, 2016(2016-03-22) (aged 45)
Oakley, California, U.S.
GenresHip hop
Years active1985–2016[1]
LabelsJive, Groove Attack Records
Formerly ofA Tribe Called Quest

Early life edit

Phife Dawg was born Malik Izaak Taylor on November 20, 1970, in Queens, New York City, the son of Trinidadian immigrant parents Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, a poet, and Walt Taylor.[3][4][5] Born prematurely, his twin brother Mikal died shortly after birth.[6] His mother settled in the St. Albans neighborhood of Queens, where Phife Dawg was raised, when she was 13 years old.[5] He was a cousin of writer Zinzi Clemmons.[7]

He first met his friend Q-Tip at the age of two, and at nine years old, Phife Dawg suggested that they should rap, after hearing "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang for the first time.[8][9] He attended Pine Forge Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school near Philadelphia, for his freshman year of high school, later transferring to Springfield Gardens High School in Queens.[10]

Career edit

Phife Dawg formed A Tribe Called Quest, then simply named Quest, with Q-Tip and DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad in 1985;[1] the group was later expanded with the addition of Jarobi White. A Tribe Called Quest were closely associated with fellow hip-hop acts De La Soul and Jungle Brothers, with the groups collectively known as the Native Tongues.[11] A Tribe Called Quest was initially offered a demo deal by Geffen Records in 1989, but signed to Jive Records to release its 1990 début People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.[11]

Phife Dawg's contributions to the group increased on its second album, 1991's The Low End Theory, which saw Phife—often calling himself "the Five-Foot Assassin"—rapping about social and political issues; the record has since been acclaimed by critics and musicians.[11] The group released three more albums that decade—Midnight Marauders in 1993, Beats, Rhymes and Life in 1996, and The Love Movement in 1998—before disbanding as a result of conflict both with their record label and internally. The group's troubles, especially the sometimes tense relationship between Phife and Q-Tip, were featured in the 2011 documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, directed by Michael Rapaport.[11]

Phife also performed with other artists. He was featured on the Fu-Schnickens song "La Schmoove", Diamond D's "Painz & Strife" with Pete Rock, and Chi-Ali's "Let the Horns Blow" with Dres, Al' Tariq and Trugoy. In 2000, he released his debut solo album, Ventilation: Da LP. In 2013, it was reported that Phife was working on another solo album, MUTTYmorPHosis.[12] A single, "Sole Men", was released one day after Phife's death (March 23, 2016) along with a posthumously released video.[13] Another single, "Nutshell", was released online in April 2016 along with a posthumously released video.[11]

On November 13, 2015, A Tribe Called Quest reunited for a performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.[14] That night, Phife and Q-Tip decided to put aside their differences and record a new group album, We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, in secrecy.[14] Phife spent four months working on the album before his death; it was completed by the surviving members and released on November 11, 2016.[14] In February 2017, it was announced that Phife's second studio album would be released later in the year. The single "Wanna Dance" was released that month and features Dwele and Mike City.[15]

Phife Dawg's second solo album, Forever, was released on March 22, 2022, the sixth anniversary of his death.[16]

Personal life edit

Taylor was married to Deisha Head-Taylor and had two children, a daughter and a son.[17][6][18] He was a fan of the New York Knicks,[19] and was a playable character in the video games NBA 2K7[citation needed] and NBA 2K9.[20]

Health problems and death edit

Taylor was diagnosed with diabetes in 1990. Conflicting reports indicated it as type 1,[21][22] while other sources reported it as type 2.[23][24] He described himself as a "funky diabetic" in the single "Oh My God" from A Tribe Called Quest's 1993 album Midnight Marauders.[25] After the group disbanded, he continued playing live shows to help cover medical costs, and revealed in the 2011 documentary film Beats, Rhymes & Life that he was "just addicted to sugar ... it's really a sickness".[23] In 2008, Taylor developed renal failure and received a kidney transplant from his wife, but it was unsuccessful, and by 2012 he again required a transplant.[23]

On March 22, 2016, Taylor died at age 45 in his Oakley, California, home due to complications of diabetes.[23][26]

Legacy edit

Phife has been described as having had a "self-deprecating swagger", and his work with A Tribe Called Quest helped challenge the "macho posturing" of rap and hip-hop music during the late 1980s and early 1990s.[23] Phife's work has been cited as an influence on Kanye West, Jill Scott, The Roots and Common,[11] while the 1991 album The Low End Theory is considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever.[23]

On November 19, 2016, a portion of Linden Boulevard, at the intersection of 192nd Street in St. Albans, was honorarily renamed "Malik 'Phife Dawg' Taylor Way".[17] The location is significant as the site of the video for A Tribe Called Quest's song "Check the Rhime".

Discography edit

Studio albums edit

Guest appearances edit

List of guest appearances
Title Year Other performer(s) Album
"Buddy (Native Tongue Decision)" 1989 De La Soul, Q-Tip, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, Monie Love Buddy (VLS)
"Let the Horns Blow" 1992 Chi-Ali, Dres, Fashion, Trugoy the Dove The Fabulous Chi-Ali
"La Schmoove" Fu-Schnickens F.U. Don't Take It Personal
"Where Ya At?" 1993 Shaquille O'Neal Shaq Diesel
"Giggin' on 'Em"
"Intro-lude" 1994 TLC CrazySexyCool
"Who Got the Funk" 1995 Science of Sound Kaleidoscope Phonetics
"Artical" Whitey Don, Chip Fu Artical (VLS)
"Game Day" 1996 Rodney Hampton NFL Jams
"Painz & Strife" 1997 Diamond D, Pete Rock Hatred, Passions and Infidelity
"Let Me Be the One (Ummah Remix Featuring Phife)" Mint Condition Let Me Be the One (VLS)
"All I Do (Jay Dee's Shit! Mix)" Somethin' for the People All I Do (CDS)
"Never Say Goodbye" 1998 Adriana Evans Ride soundtrack
"Phife's Speech" 2000 Ambivalence Electric Treatment
"What's da Deal"
"Hold Ya Karna" Mastermind, Nefarius Mastermind Presents Volume 50: Street Legal
"In My Mind (Dodge's Main Mix)" 2001 Al Jarreau Tomorrow Today (Reissue)
"In My Mind (Dodge's Melodic Mix)"
"Solo Movement" K-Mel Reflexions Vol. 1
"Take You There" 2002 AK1200 Shoot to Kill
"Nah Mean" 2003 Must B 21
"How It's Gonna Be" 2004 Truth Enola 6 O'Clock Straight
"How It's Gonna Be (Remix)" Ten Past 6
"Scheming" 2010 Slum Village, Posdnuos Villa Manifesto
"Tell the Whole City" 2011 Consequence Movies on Demand 2
"They Say (Legendary Remix)" T3, Rapper Big Pooh 3illa Madness
"Dues n Donts" 2012 Oh No, José James Ohnomite
"What Profit (Remix)" Dwele
"Seek Well" 2013 CJ Fly, A La Sole Thee Way Eye See It
"Push It Along" 2015 Slum Village Yes!
"All Around the World" 2018 Black Eyed Peas, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Posdnuos Masters of the Sun Vol. 1
"No Place Like Home" 2019 Consequence

Filmography edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b Lewis, Miles (October 1998). "After the Love is Gone". The Source. L. Londell McMillan.
  2. ^ "Ghostface Killah, Jay Electronica and Others Honor 'Phife Dawg'". Hip-Hop Wired. January 20, 2010. Archived from the original on August 31, 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  3. ^ "Phife Dawg: His Name Is Mutty Ranks". HipHopDX. May 16, 2010. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  4. ^ Coleman (2007), p. 435.
  5. ^ a b "Cheryl Boyce-Taylor". The Ubuntu Biography Project by Stephen A. Maglott. December 6, 2017. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Phife Dawg's Family: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy. March 23, 2016. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  7. ^ Clemmons, Zinzi (March 25, 2016). "A Gritty Little Something on the New York Street". The Paris Review.
  8. ^ Rapaport, Michael (2011). "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest". Sony Pictures Classics.
  9. ^ Eustice, Kyle (August 11, 2017). "Q-Tip Gives Phife Dawg Ultimate Salute During ATCQ's Final Denver Show". HipHopDX. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  10. ^ Coleman (2007), p. 436.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Chavez, Danette (March 23, 2016). "R.I.P. Malik "Phife Dawg" Taylor, co-founder of A Tribe Called Quest". The A.V. Club. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  12. ^ WENN (November 28, 2013). "A Tribe Called Quest | Phife Dawg Pens Song Tribute To J. Dilla". Retrieved November 28, 2013.
  13. ^ Steve Petersen (March 23, 2016), "Sole Men" Music Video | Phife Dawg, retrieved February 11, 2018
  14. ^ a b c Touré (November 2, 2016). "Loss Haunts A Tribe Called Quest's First Album in 18 Years". The New York Times. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
  15. ^ Johnson, Cherise (February 14, 2017). "Phife Dawg's Posthumous Solo Album To Be Titled "Forever"". Hip-Hop DX.
  16. ^ a b Blistein, Jon (November 22, 2021). "Phife Dawg's Posthumous Album 'Forever' Finally Has a Release Date". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  17. ^ a b Kim, Michelle (November 19, 2016). "NYC Street Is Now Officially Named After A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg". The Fader.
  18. ^ Gonzales, Michael A. (November 15, 2016). "A Tribe Called Quest's Soundtrack to the Resistance". The Village Voice. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  19. ^ "Phife Dawg, Rapper". Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  20. ^ High, Kamau (October 2, 2008). "The Cool Kids To Headline 'NBA2K9' Tour". Billboard. Retrieved September 15, 2022.
  21. ^ "Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest Has Passed Away, But His Legacy Lives On". VH1 News. Retrieved November 28, 2016.
  22. ^ Maslow, Nick (March 23, 2016). "Phife Dawg Dead: A Tribe Called Quest Rapper Honored on Social Media". People. Retrieved November 28, 2016.
  23. ^ a b c d e f Savage, Mark (March 23, 2016). "Tribe Called Quest star Phife Dawg dies aged 45". BBC News. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  24. ^ Renshaw, David (March 23, 2016). "Phife Dawg Of A Tribe Called Quest Reportedly Dead At 45". NME. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  25. ^ High, Kamau (October 2, 2008). "The Cool Kids To Headline 'NBA2K9' Tour". Billboard. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  26. ^ Harrington, Jim (March 23, 2016). "Phife Dawg, Founding Member of A Tribe Called Quest, Dead at 45". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved April 18, 2022.

Further reading edit

External links edit