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Rapper Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest Dead at 45

By Savannah Cox | March 23, 2016 10:42am

NEW YORK — Phife Dawg, a rapper and co-founder of the legendary hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, died Wednesday at the age of 45, Rolling Stone reported. The cause of death was not immediately released.

News spread of the Queens native's death on Twitter, when DJ Chuck Chillout tweeted a photo of Phife — née Malik Taylor — wishing him peace:

Since then, condolences and tributes have come in waves.

Rapper Chuck D called Phife "a true fire social narrator," with BBC 6 Music DJ Gilles Peterson saying that Phife and fellow A Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip "complimented [sic] each other like Lennon and McCartney," and that "their albums changed my life."

While an official statement regarding the cause of Phife's death has yet to be released, the rapper — who gave himself the nickname the Funky Diabetic — had health issues for years, Rolling Stone reported.

In 1990, Phife was diagnosed with diabetes, and following renal failure in 2008, the rapper underwent a kidney transplant to help handle the disease.

"Four years later," the BBC reported, he was "back on the waiting list for a kidney."

"It's a strain on me as far as going where I want to go, doing what I want to do," Phife said in Beats, Rhymes & Life, a 2011 documentary about the group.

"When I was on dialysis the first time, my stepson was playing basketball [and] I couldn't practice with him. I wanted to go out and run with him and things of that nature, but I didn't feel good."

While Rolling Stone noted that his health issues also kept the rapper from producing much solo work following the group's original 1998 breakup, Phife did make an appearance at a November 2015 episode of the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where all four members of A Tribe Called Quest reunited to perform their hit, "Can I Kick It?"

At the time of his death, the BBC wrote that Phife was working on a solo LP, Muttymorphosis, which he called "basically my life story."

A full track has yet to be released from the record, but you can listen to a clip from the first single, Nutshell, below: