Phife Dawg – a founding member of iconic hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest – died Tuesday after a long health battle, the rapper’s family confirmed. He was 45.
Phife Dawg (né Malik Taylor) “has passed away due to complications resulting from diabetes,” a statement provided to PEOPLE reads. “Malik was our loving husband, father, brother and friend. We love him dearly. How he impacted all our lives will never be forgotten. His love for music and sports was only surpassed by his love of God and family.”
His loved ones asked “that their privacy be respected at this difficult time.”
The hip hop star had been candid about his struggle with Type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed in May 1990, one month after A Tribe Called Quest released their first album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.
“I thought it was over,” he told dLife. “I didn’t know everything that I would have to go through – the rights and the wrongs, the dos and the don’ts. I just automatically thought I was done rapping. No more career.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, A Tribe Called Quest expressed their sadness at the news, adding that Phife Dawg’s death was “something we weren’t prepared for.
“Our hearts are heavy. We are devastated. It was no secret about his health and his fight,” the statement reads. “The fight to keep his family happy, his soul happy and those around him happy, gave him complete and unadulterated joy… until he heeded his fathers call.
“His family is overwhelmed by the support, well wishes and are thankful. His music and what he’s contributed is seismic and hard to measure. He’s affected us as much as he’s affected all of you. We’re inspired by his daily joy and courage. He wasn’t in pain. He was happy. We take comfort in knowing he will be beside his grandmother.”
Phife Dawg said he didn’t accept the reality of his disease and tried to push through. Eventually, the musician would undergo dialysis and receive a kidney transplant in 2008. But he was placed on the list for another transplant last year, he told NPR.
The rapper – who captured his journey in the 2012 documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life – is being honored on social media by fellow musicians and celebrities.
“Rest In Beats PHIFE ATCQ Forever,” Chuck D of Public Enemy wrote on Twitter early Wednesday.
Earlier, he confirmed the death by retweeting a report and explaining Phife Dawg’s legacy.
“Phife-HipHop & Rap word Warrior, simple as that.Breathed it & lined rhyme into Sport.A true fire Social Narrator my bro #RIBeats ATCQforever,” wrote Chuck D.
In a personal note on Instagram, Questlove of The Roots recalled Phife Dawg’s impact on his career. Questlove’s dad once wanted him to attend Julliard or the Curtis Institute of Music to “make a nice living at ‘real music,'” but “Phife [and] his crew already wrote my destiny. I ain’t look back since,” explained Questlove.
Justin Timberlake paid his respects by mentioning A Tribe Called Quest’s “Buggin’ Out,” writing, “‘Microphone check 1, 2 what is this..?’ The Five Foot Assassin. ATCQ changed everything … RIP, Phife Dawg.”
Kerry Washington recognized Phife Dawg as a “legend” and “originator.” She tweeted, “Huge loss today. A legend. A NY hip-hop originator. #RIPPhifeDawg Sending love to his close friends and fam. Today we are all in the Tribe.”
Colin Hanks referenced A Tribe Called Quest’s song “8 Million Stories” in his tweet, penning, “While I never ONCE thought Phife Dawg was Mr Belvedere, I did think the world of his humor and skills an MC. #RIPPhifeDawg.”