Malik B, Founding Member of The Roots, Dies at the Age of 47

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Malik Abdul Basit, a founding member of the hip hop group The Roots, has died. He was 47.

The rapper’s death was confirmed by The Roots in a statement that did not provide a cause of 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,” the statement by The Roots’ Questlove and Black Thought said. “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 three artists met in the early 1990s in rural Pennsylvania while attending Millersville University, according to NPR. In 1993, the group self-released its debut album Organix, which eventually led to their second album Do you Want More?!!!??!

Two years later, The Roots landed a major label deal and in 1996, they released Illadelph Halflife, which catapulted them to the mainstream.

Basit, or Malik B, was best known as “the quiet heart” of the earliest version of The Roots. Rolling Stone describes Malik B as a crucial and steading force in the group. “He kept the Roots grounded, giving their jazzy, free-wheeling explorations a firm footing in the Northeastern rap canon of that era,” reporter Simon Vozick-Levinson wrote.

Malik B’s final album with The Roots was Things Fall Apart and he finally left the group in 1999. After his split from the group, Black Thought addressed Malik B’s departure in the song “Water (The First Movement)” in Phrenology. Malik B later returned as a guest on three songs in The Roots’ seventh album Game Theory, released in 2006.

He was honored by his cousin, Don Champion, who said he was “so talented and had a huge heart.”

In a tribute to his friend, Black Thought said that he always felt like he only possessed “only a mere fraction” of Malik B’s “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,” he wrote. “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.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.