Malik B.’s cousin and The Roots confirmed the news.
Malik B., former The Roots member known for his pugnacious rap style, has died. He was 47. The cause or time of death has not been confirmed.
Malik B.’s cousin Don Champion, who is a former CBS News Correspondent, confirmed the news on Twitter. He wrote: “Mourning my beloved cousin today. 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.”
Mourning my beloved cousin today. 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 ❤️ https://t.co/UMQeXJsWmf
— Don Champion (@DonChampionTV) July 29, 2020
Malik B., born Malik Abdul Basit, was an early member of The Roots, alongside Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter. He appeared on the first four albums, and he was the perfect fit; both Thought and Malik utilized a rapid-fire, relentless rap style. While it was always clear that Black Thought was the lead MC in the group, Malik B. found moments to shine, like “Distortion To Static” from Do You Want More?!!!??! or on Illadelph Halflife standout “Clones.”
Malik would split with the group after Things Fall Apart in 1999. There were whispers that drugs were an issue. On The Roots 2002 album Phrenology, the first album without Malik, Black Thought dedicated the song “Water” to his former rhyme partner. On the track, which is one of The Roots’ most experimental, Thought details the story of how the two came up and how drugs eventually ruined the relationship.
“Yo, I’m headed back to Philly
Nigga you rollin’ with me? I’m trying to get busy
We walked dogs that was off the chain
Lot of times, at the shows, people hardly came
I just took it in stride as part of the game
But inside people down with me started to change
It was a couple things, lil’ syrup, lil’ pills
Instead of riding out on the road you’d rather chill
I know the way a pleasure feel, I’m not judging
But still I’m on a mission, yo, I’m not buggin’
I got fam that can’t stop druggin’, they can’t sleep
They can’t stick to one subject, they can’t eat
It’s people steady comin’ at me out in the street
Like ‘Riq, yo, what up with your peeps? It gets deep, nigga”
Malik B. would return to the group by 2006, appearing on three tracks off of Game Theory and then on 2008’s Rising Down. Although his collaborations with The Roots were less frequent over the years he never stopped working.
He has released an EP and two albums since 2006. His last album was 2015’s Unpredictable, which was with producer Mr. Green.
Last year, he appeared on “Young Love” with The Last Poets.
After the news started circulating, The Roots put out a statement On their Instagram, writing, “May he be remembered for his devotion to Islam, His loving brotherhood and his innovation as one of the most gifted MCs of all time. We ask that you please respect his family and extended family in our time of mourning such a great loss.”
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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 Baset. May he be remembered for his devotion to Islam, His loving brotherhood and his innovation as one of the most gifted MCs of all time. We ask that you please respect his family and extended family in our time of mourning such a great loss.
Black Thought also put out his own statement. He wrote, “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. I always wanted to change you, 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.”
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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. I always wanted to change you, 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. #MalikB #TheLegendaryRootsCrew
Questlove took to Instagram to share a lighter story about Malik’s influence on his arsenal of fragrances.
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📸 by @tdoteric A lighter tale of Malik Abdul Basit As a true Bol from philly you know that one’s oil game HAD to be on point. I came in this game rockin oils since age 9. Most of yall joke about me smelling like Breakfast (thx Kravitz clan) but long before my vanilla combo mastery my true graduation from basic Frankincense & Myrrh morphed into new exotic philly jawns like “Mecca Musk” & “Somali Rose” & “Egyptian Musk” & yeah…..”Money On the Street” & “Hug My Neck Aphrodisiac” Malik introduced me to that world. Even before Malik was in the Roots —-he was my oil guru. IYKYK…there is no panic like the last drop of oil w no re-up in the future. I been bugging Malik for my “$OTS” re-up. Paged him 911 (ask your parents kids) he was hard to catch but I knew I had some leverage bait this time: these were my last days interning at #RuffhouseRecords. I was everyone’s plug for all free cd’s/lp’s & especially Kriss Kross posters for anyone’s younger sibling or cousin Tim Dog’s sophomore Do or Die just came out (his “I Get Wrecked” single w KRS made brief noise for a sec) & I had 6 songs from the not yet released Cypress Hill “Black Sunday” lp——that was just enough to garner a “word? BET!” confirmation from Malik to tell me that him & Mussa (remember the cat dozing off watching TV in our “Distorion” vid? Him) would scoop me in a half hour. Confused I thought it was gonna be an even exchange (having paid him upfront weeks ago at a show I thought he was gonna drop it off——ha ha ha yeah ok They arrive to my west philly house and then Malik breaks the news to me: we gotta take a trip to “Norf” to get the oils. I wasn’t planning on this. But oh well. It was 3pm. Malik told me the particular fragrance I dug was a mixture of 3 import oils from Saudi Arabia (his parents often taught school there) my dad was already on his cynic “fool me once….” bag with Malik from a previous sale: “that boy tried to hustle me with Blue Nile that wasn’t all the way Blue, I know Johnson’s baby oil rebranded when I smell it”)——Malik told me we’d have to run to grab 2 oils & then West Oak Lane for the other oil, & then to South Philly so he can mix em together. Uh (checks Swatch) ok.
Members of the hip-hop community have been in mourning since the news came out. From Mr. Green to J. Live to underground MC Reef the Lost Cause have written loving messages about Malik.
Heartbroken to hear of the passing of Malik B, one of the greatest MC's to ever come from this city. He had his troubles for sure, but dude inspired a whole generation of us to touch the mic. Myself included. May he rest peacefully.
— Reef The Lost Cauze (@LostCauze) July 29, 2020
If anybody knows me they know how I feel about the ROOTS and how I can spit MALIK B verses fluent! REST IN POWER LORD! Damn!
— planetasia (@planetasia) July 29, 2020
Damn, Malik B passed?? Ugh.
I don’t even know what to say yet, The Roots really raised me, this one hurts.
— Kibbutzy Collins (@atrak) July 29, 2020