Born Malik Taylor, Phife, also known as the Five Foot Assassin and The Five Footer, was a widely beloved member of the iconic group. Tribe formed in the mid-1980s, comprised of Phife, Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White (who would later leave), and went on to release five celebrated albums, beginning with 1990's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.
Phife was known for his lyrical volleys with Q-Tip, a friend since their days as children in Queens. The group split following the release of their final album, 1998's Grammy-nominated The Love Movement, though they'd reunite at times over the next decade-and-a-half, including in November, on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on the heels of the release of the 25th anniversary edition of their debut album.
In addition to his work with Tribe, Phife also released a solo album, Ventilation: Da LP, in 2000. In 2011, he and the group were the subjects of the documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, directed by Michael Rapaport, which focused both on Tribe's groundbreaking music and success, and the history of tension within the crew.
Phife, who was a diabetic, had suffered some health setbacks in recent years, including undergoing a kidney transplant in 2008. You can read the full statement from his family below.
We regret to share the news that on Tuesday March 22nd, 2016, Malik has passed away due to complications resulting from diabetes.
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.
Dion Liverpool, his manager added:
While I mourn the loss of my best friend and brother, I also will celebrate his incredible life and contribution to many people's ears across the world. Even with all his success, I have never met a person as humble as he. He taught me that maintaining a positive attitude and outlook can conquer anything. Now my brother is resting in greatness. I'm honored to have crossed paths with him. Riddim Kidz 4eva.