Malik B. is dead.
The death of the rapper and founding member of The Roots was confirmed by the hip-hop group’s social media statement Wednesday, which did not reveal the cause of his death.
“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. 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,” the group wrote on Instagram. “We ask that you please respect his family and extended family in our time of mourning such a great loss.”
His cousin Don Champion broke the news on Twitter when he reshared old performance footage of Malik B. at NYC’s The Bowery Electric. “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,” Champion wrote. “He’d give me and my dad their cassette tapes to listen to. I miss you already, Mailk. #RIP.”
Also, fellow Roots founding member and MC Black Thought shared a post on his Instagram account, saying, “We made a name and carved a lane together where there was none. We resurrected 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 bi—. 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.”
He continued: “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.”
A bit about Malik B., per THR:
Born Malik Abdul Basit in The Roots’ home base of Philadelphia, he befriended high school buddies Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, who began performing together under the name Square Roots in 1987, while they attended Millersville University in Lancaster. They officially dropped “Square” from their name in 1992 before moving to London and releasing their debut album, Organix, the following year.
Malik B.’s claim to fame arose from The Roots’ major label debut album Do You Want More?!!!??! from 1995, when he and Black Thought’s raps reigned supreme under the group’s early tenure at DGC/Geffen. He also recorded songs on Illadelph Halflife in 1996 and Things Fall Apart in 1999 before eventually leaving the group at the turn of the millennium.
He was 47.