Claim to fame: musician
DOB: November 20, 1970
Date of death: March 23, 2016
Diabetes Type: 1
Along with a few of his high school classmates, Phife Dawg, born Malik Taylor, changed the face of hip-hop music with the acclaimed Grammy-nominated group A Tribe Called Quest. Their first album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, was released in 1990. The band has been honored at both the Billboard R&B Hip-Hop Awards and the fourth VH1 Hip-Hop Honors. A Tribe Called Quest broke up in 1998, but has reunited several times.
In 2000, Phife linked up with producer/DJ Rasta Root to form Smokin’ Needles Records and Riddim Kidz production company. Both the label and the production company would become home to artists such as Slick & Rose, Jax, and Phife himself. His solo album, Ventiliation: Da LP was also released in 2000. A Tribe Called Quest recorded and released their reunion album in 2003.
An avid sports fan, Phife rapped about sports and created hits for the likes of Shaquille O’Neal on several of his platinum releases. He was a contributor to both Rap Pages and Slam magazine. He served as music consultant for the Golden State Warriors, and appeared on the 2003 ESPY Awards theme song and video “Let’s Get Loud” with Busta Rhymes, MC Lyte, Chuck D, and Aerosmith. He and Rasta Root recorded the Dallas Mavericks’ theme song, “Mavericks Phire.” Phife also wrote a sports column on SpitKicker.com called Only From The Mind of the Phifer. You can currently read his “mind” on the Myspace page of A Tribe Called Quest.
Phife was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 1990, just as his band was taking off. After he began experiencing constant thirst and bathroom visits, his grandmother, a nurse, tested him for diabetes after a show in Connecticut. Initially, Phife did not take the diagnosis seriously, and maintained his same lifestyle. He was eventually hospitalized before a television appearance in New York City. At the time of his admittance, his blood sugar level was in the thousands.
Phife’s initial resistance to treatment made it necessary for him to go on dialysis (though he had a kidney transplant). During an interview with dLifeTV, Phife welcomed the opportunity to help others to learn from his mistakes.
His message: when you learn you have diabetes, “the first word you have to learn is acceptance.”