Update (3/23/16 1 p.m. ET): A statement confirms Phife's death was diabetes-related, and his manager, DJ Rasta Root has spoken about the loss of his friend:
“While I mourn the loss of my best friend and brother, I also will celebrate his incredible life and contribution to many people’s ears across the world. Even with all his success, I have never met a person as humble as he. He taught me that maintaining a positive attitude and outlook can conquer anything. Now my brother is resting in greatness. I’m honored to have crossed paths with him. Riddim Kidz 4eva.”
Although the official cause of death has yet to be released, it was known that Phife, born Malik Taylor, struggled with Type 1 diabetes.
The hip-hop group was on and off over the years, but Phife appeared on all five of ATCQ's albums—from 1990's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm to 1998's The Love Movement. His health issues prevented him from recording his own solo material, although he was working on both an EP and LP, RS points out, referencing their interview with the rapper from November: "I have my good days and I have my bad days," he said, adding that he was planning on releasing his the J Dilla–produced "Nutshell," which you can watch a teaser for below:
Condolences have been pouring out from the music world—although Tribe members Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White have remained quiet as of yet.
Mac Miller wasted no time releasing a tribute to Phife, working in the late rapper's rhymes over a somber beat.