Photo: The Roots Twitter
Malik B, Innovative MC & Founding Member Of The Roots, Dies At 47
Malik Abdul Basit, aka Malik B, co-founding member of The Roots, has died. As an important part of the band's formative years, Malik B. appeared on the group's first four albums before leaving the band in 1999 and going on to release solo material. He was just 47 years old.
News of Basit's death was revealed via Twitter on July 29 by his cousin, Don Champion. “Mourning my beloved cousin today,” Champion wrote. “He was so talented and had a huge heart. I still remember when he and The Roots were starting out. He’d give me and my dad their cassette tapes to listen to. I miss you already, Mailk. #RIP.”
The Roots’ Questlove and Black Thought added in a statement, “It is with heavy hearts and tearful eyes that we regretfully inform you of the passing of our beloved brother and long time Roots member Malik Abdul Basit,”
A Philadelphia native, Basit connected with Questlove and Black Thought in Philadelphia while he was attending Millersville University. He joined the group in 1992, at the time called Square Roots, and in 1993 they moved to London briefly and released their debut album as simply The Roots, Organix. In 1995, they dropped their major label debut and breakout album, Do You Want More?!!!??!, and followed up with 1996's Illadelph Halflife followed before the group delivered their 1999 rap masterpiece, Things Fall Apart.
Basit left the group before 2002's Phrenology, but Black Thought dedicated the song "Water" from the album to his former bandmate, detailing how the two originally met.
Black Thought took to Instagram to pay tribute to Malik and reflect on the group's early days. "We made a name and carved a lane together where there was none. We ressurected a city from the ashes, put it on our backs and called it Illadelph. In friendly competition with you from day one, I always felt as if I possessed only a mere fraction of your true gift and potential. Your steel sharpened my steel as I watched you create cadences from the ether and set them free into the universe to become poetic law, making the English language your bitch."
In 2005, Malik B released his first solo album, Street Assault. A year later, he returned to the studio with The Roots for their 2006 album, Game Theory, where he appeared on three tracks, including "in the Music," "Here I Come" and the title track. Malik B's most recent release was 2015's Unpredictable, a collaboration with producer Mr. Green.
"Music is about breaking barriers, evolving and creating a safe space for our music community," said Harvey Mason jr., Chair and Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy. "As a true innovator and founding member of the Roots, Malik B will always be remembered for his contribution to redefining hip-hop music for the masses."
"I always wanted to change you," Black Thought continued, "to somehow sophisticate your outlook and make you see that there were far more options than the streets, only to realize that you and the streets were one... and there was no way to separate a man from his true self. My beloved brother M-illitant. I can only hope to have made you as proud as you made me. The world just lost a real one. May Allah pardon you, forgive your sins and grant you the highest level of paradise."