Phife was a founding member of the A Tribe Called Quest, a hip hop group who pioneered the use of sampling in hip hop and considered to be originators of jazz rap. He became known for his high-pitched vocals, which he disliked, but became a favorite of the group's fans. While Q-Tip has become the de facto face of the group, Phife Dawg created some of my favorite verses.
After the group first disbanded in 1998, he tried his hand at a solo career, releasing Ventilation: Da LP in 2000. He was working on a follow-up record, to be called MUTTYmorPHosis, and released "Nutshell" last year.
He suffered from diabetes, being plagued by health problems through much of his adult life. He openly admitted to his health problems in much of his lyrics, referring to himself as the "funky diabetic" and referencing a love of sugary soft drinks. He received a kidney transplant in 2008, which unfortunately failed. Ultimately, it would be the disease that would kill him.
Goodbye Phife, you will be missed!