Malik Taylor, the rapper also known as Phife Dawg who helped catapult A Tribe Called Quest to success with such hits as "Can I Kick It?" and "Scenario," has died at the age of 45, Rolling Stone reports. Taylor was known for his rhyming skills and his status as what the magazine calls the "high-pitched, gruff vocal counterpoint to [bandmate] Q-Tip's smooth, mellow flow." Although an official cause of death has yet to be announced, the magazine notes that Taylor had suffered from various health issues, including diabetes that spurred a 2008 kidney transplant. "It's really a sickness," Taylor said in an interview for an ATCQ rap documentary by actor/director Michael Rapaport. "Like straight-up drugs. I'm just addicted to sugar."
Taylor helped found A Tribe Called Quest with best friend Q-Tip (whom he grew up with in Queens, NY), Jarobi White, and producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and the group put out five studio albums in total, starting with 1990's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm and ending with 1998's The Love Movement. He also released one solo album, Ventilation: Da LP, in 2000 and had been working on a new album, Give Thanks, due out this year. The group performed "Can I Kick It?" live on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show in November, which was their first TV performance in 15 years. E! Online has compiled social media tributes to the late rapper from fans, friends, and industry icons, including hip-hop magnate Russell Simmons, who tweeted, "Damn. #RIPPhife one of the greatest to bless the mic," and Public Enemy rapper Chuck D, who posted, "Rest In Beats PHIFE ATCQ Forever." (Read more obituary stories.)