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Remembering Phife Dawg: What he did for hip-hop (+video)

A Tribe Called Quest member Dawg helped create such works as the acclaimed album 'Low End Theory.' 'He brought the street to A Tribe Called Quest,' the ensemble's former manager, Chris Lighty, said.

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    Q-Tip (l.) and Phife Dawg (r.) from A Tribe Called Quest perform on stage during the Wireless Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London in 2013.
    Jonathan Short/Invision/AP
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Phife Dawg, one of the founding members of the hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, has died.

Dawg, who was born Malik Taylor, was a member of A Tribe Called Quest along with group members Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Q-Tip, and Jarobi White.

The group released their first album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,” in 1990. Their second album, 1991’s “The Low End Theory,” which included the songs “Check the Rhime” and “Jazz (We’ve Got),” was particularly acclaimed.

Pitchfork writer Evan Minsker called “The Low End Theory” a “classic,” while Rolling Stone staff put the album on their list of the best 500 albums ever released. 

“Many connected the dots between hip-hop and jazz, but this LP drew the whole picture,” Rolling Stone critics wrote.

The hip-hop group would go on to release three more albums, with 1998’s “The Love Movement” becoming their last.

Dawg was often credited as one of the factors in making the group a success. “Hip hop just lost one of its founding fathers,” USA Today writers Maeve McDermott and Jaleesa M. Jones wrote of Dawg's death, while Chris Lighty, who was at one point the group’s manager, credited Dawg with keeping the group grounded, according to Rolling Stone. “He brought the street to A Tribe Called Quest," Mr. Lighty said. "If Q-Tip was esoteric and on Pluto, Phife would bring them back to the moon so that it was in the realm of human understanding.”

After the group’s final work, “The Love Movement,” Phife went on to release a solo work, the 2000 album “Ventilation: Da LP.”   

A Tribe Called Quest had come back together for some reunion performances within the past decades, with the group performing at, among other events, the Los Angeles H2O Music Festival in 2013. The ensemble also performed on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” late last year.

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