In November 2015 A Tribe Called Quest reissued its landmark debut album, 1990’s People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, and reunited for a performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
When the album was initially released, the young hip-hop upstarts (Phife was 19 years old when the record dropped) tackled social issues, celebrated their Muslim faith, and kept their raps clean from swears. Musically, the band blended elements of jazz and hard funk into their beats, all buoyed by their unflailing positive rhymes.
The outfit was embraced by fans; its 1996 album Beats, Rhymes and Lifehit No. 1 on the Billboard charts and 1998’s The Love Movement reached No. 3. In 2005, ATCQ was honored with a Special Achievement Award at the Billboard R&B Hip-Hop Awards.
Phife, who often referred to himself as “the Funky Diabetic,” had recently struggled with mental health issues and underwent a kidney transplant after suffering from renal failure due to complications from diabetes in 2008, Rolling Stone reported. The experience spurred Phife to become a diabetes advocate and he shared his story in the 2012 documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life.
The hip-hop community lit up social media with tributes to the MC.
Rest In Beats PHIFE ATCQ Forever pic.twitter.com/jwYNU6YLJ8
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) March 23, 2016
After A Tribe Called Quest disbanded in 1998, Phife went on to release a solo album, 2000’s Ventilation: Da LP.