PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 23: Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest attends SPiN Decision Makers Panel With Hype Williams presented by Bing on January 23, 2011 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Bing)

Phife Dawg (Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Bing)

Phife Dawg, founding member of the pioneering hip hop group, A Tribe Called Quest, has died at age 45, although an official statement has yet to be released.

Born Malik Taylor in Queens, New York, the rapper founded the late 1980s group alongside his classmates, Q-Tip (Kamaal Fareed) and Ali Shaheed Muhammed in the halls of Murray Bergtraum High School For Business Careers.

It was soon after the group would release their debut album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” under Jive records in 1990. Following that, they released critically acclaimed records “The Low End Theory” and “Midnight Marauders” in 1991 and 1993, respectively.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 20: (L-R)Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Jarobi White of A Tribe Called Quest perform at Barclays Center on November 20, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

(L-R) Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Jarobi White of A Tribe Called Quest (Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

However, it wasn’t until 1996 that the trio would reach Billboard success, when their fourth album, “Beats, Rhymes and Life” peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. This album earned the group a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album before disbanding in 1998.

Phife Dawg, known for his high pitch voice and five foot stature, stood out among his fellow group mates. His other monikers include “Five Foot Assassin” and “The Five Footer.”

The cause of death is unknown, however it is no secret that Phife Dawg suffered from medical issues. In a record titled, “Oh My God” on “Midnight Marauders”he rapped, ‘when’s the last time you heard a funky diabetic?’ He later received a kidney transplant from his wife in 2008 as a result of diabetes complications. However, in 2012 he needed another transplant and was back on dialysis.

In an interview with, the Queens rapper spoke of his bout with dialysis. “I haven’t really spoken about being on dialysis again and needing another kidney,” he said in 2013. “It’s a strain on me as far as going where I want to go, doing what I want to do.”

Phife dawg, left behind mother, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, wife Deisha and stepson, David.

This article originally appeared on Epoch Times

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