Leonard ‘Hub’ Hubbard, the legendary bass player who for 15 years was a core member of The Roots, died on Thursday (December 16) after a long bout with cancer. He was 62 years old.
Stephanie Hubbard, his wife who was by his side at Lankenau Hospital at the time of death, confirmed the news to the ABC 6. In 2007, Hubbard was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer.
“It happened quickly… He didn’t suffer a lot,” Stephanie Hubbard told ABC 6.
Hubbard, who was born in Philadelphia and still lived there at his death, was a foundational member of the Roots. He joined in 1992, when the group was still called The Square Roots, joining Black Thought, Questlove and Malik B. (Malik B died at 47 last year.) From there he would be a prominent part of the next seven Roots albums, starting with their debut Organix in 1993 to Game Theory in 2006. During his time with the Roots, Hubbard — who went by the nickname Hub — was a highlight of live shows, known for his funky grooves and the chew stick he kept in his mouth during performances.
Hubbard left the group shortly after his cancer diagnosis. Over the years he would do spot performances for The Roots but the relationship would dissolve. In 2016, Hubbard sued Questlove, Black Thought and former manager Shawn Gee over royalties, claiming that his deal stipulated that he should be paid as a co-owner of The Roots. According Stephanie, the lawsuit still hasn’t been settled. She also said he just completed an album, working with artists like Jill Scott, Vernon Reid, and more.
In 2003, he gave one of the most insight and in depth interviews of his career to Bass Player Magazine. During the interview he talked about the advice he would give bassets who wanted to play hip-hop:
“If you want to play hip-hop bass, you have to own a beat machine, you have to know the metronome, and you need some sense of rhythm and timing. But here’s the main thing: You have to listen to yourself play. Record yourself playing a bass line for five minutes. If you can play something fast, then try playing it slow, melodically and groovin’, and make it sound just as good as it did when you played it fast. Listen to it and hear where your playing got weak, and ask yourself why three minutes later you played a fill that messed up the pocket. Even bassists who listen to hip-hop sometimes don’t understand the discipline, because once they get onstage and start feeling it, they think, The faster I play, the more exciting! But playing hip-hop is a different discipline. It’s all about listening, understanding the pocket, and knowing your place in it.”
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