The rapper, real name Malik Taylor, has passed away aged 45, according to posts on Twitter. No official statement has been released and his cause of death has not been revealed.
Once news of his death began circulating, the tributes began pouring in from stars, including Chuck D and Snoop Dogg, on social media, and The Roots' star Questlove wrote a lengthy Instagram post thanking Phife for inspiring his decision to make hip-hop/rap music.
He describes the first time he listened to the band's second album The Low End Theory, and the song Buggin' Out, with bandmate Tariq Trotter, and writes, "The sign of a true classic is when a life memory is burnt in your head because of the first time you hear a song... Riq & I had this moment a few times, but the look on our faces when we 1st heard 'Buggin Out' was prolly (sic) Me & Tariq's greatest 'rewind selector!' moment in our friendship...
"Malik 'Phife' Taylor's verse was such a gauntlet/flag planting moment in hip hop. Every hip hop head was just...stunned HE. CAME. FOR. BLOOD & was taking NO prisoners on this album (or ever again) we just kept looking at the speaker on some disbelief...
"By the time we got to 'Scenario' I swear to god THAT was the moment I knew I wanted to make THIS type of music when I grew up... Phife & his crew already wrote my destiny. I ain't look back since. THANK YOU PHIFE!"
Rapper MACklemore also added a tribute, writing, "RIP Phife. He was a key ingredient to one of the greatest groups ever. Influenced and touched so many lives, mine included..Tribe all day," while singer Jilly Scott posted, "So incredibly sad to hear the Great Phife Dawg of Tribe Called Quest has passed away at only 45 yrs. GREAT MC. Sincere Love and Respect."
Tributes were not limited to music stars, with actress Kerry Washington tweeting, "Huge loss today. A legend. A NY hip-hop originator. #RIPPhifeDawg Sending love to his close friends and fam. Today we are all in the Tribe," while Chris Rock used lyrics from Tribe's track Electric Relaxation, writing, "I like brown ,yellow Puerto Rican or Haitian name is phife dog from the Zulu nation. Rip Phife."
Russell Simmons simply posted, "Damn. #RIPPhife one of the greatest to bless the mic," and Empire star Taraji P. Henson took to Instagram to write, "My heart is sad! We lost a great one #RIP #PhifeDog you will be missed. Thank you for the music that will live on FOREVER!!! #FOREVERWITHUS MY GOD!."
Other tributes came in from Mark Ronson, Sean Lennon, Good Charlotte's Joel Madden, Solange Knowles, Elijah Wood and Don Cheadle.
Phife's former bandmates Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White have yet to comment on his death.
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