According to Rolling Stone, the rapper — born Malik Isaac Taylor — had been struggling with Type 1 diabetes for several years. He famously called himself “the Funky Diabetic” and shared his struggle with the disease in Michael Rapaport’s 2011 documentary “Beats, Rhymes & Life.”
Phife received a kidney transplant from his wife in 2008 and told NPR last year that he was on the list to receive another kidney.
Phife, who was was known for his high-pitched voice and diminutive size (his other nicknames included “Five Foot Assassin” and “The Five Footer”), was recently working on a new album, “Muttymorphosis.”
He formed A Tribe Called Quest in the late 1980s with Q-Tip, DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White. They signed to Jive Records and released the first of five studio albums, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,” in 1990.
The group broke up and reunited multiple times since the release of their last album, “The Love Movement,” in 1998. They most recently rebanded on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” last November to celebrate their 25th anniversary, performing their breakout song “Can I Kick It?”
Phife released his only solo album in 2000, “Ventilation: Da LP.”
Member of the music and movie industries took to twitter on Wednesday to remember the rapper.
“Phife — Hip Hop & Rap word Warrior, simple as that. Breathed it & lined rhyme into Sport. A true fire Social Narrator my bro,” Chuck D from Public Enemy tweeted.
“Phife didawg… #RIP fam love you brother. You left the world with jewels man. My childhood,” Marlon Wayans wrote.
“Phife Dawg, rest in peace. Forty-five is too, too young. But you did kick it: ‘Low End Theory’ turned the worm,” tweeted David Simon.
“A pioneer of hip hop has left us. Rest in peace, Phife,” Elijah Wood wrote.
“more than just a fly mc who’s 5 foot 3 and very brave, phife is a legend who helped father hip hop’s golden era. RIP,” DJ Kalkutta wrote.
“Hearing Phife’s voice will forever remind me of my favourite time in rap music #RIPPHIFE,” Foreign Beggars tweeted.