Rapper Malik B., best known as a co-founding member of foundational hip-hop crew The Roots, has died at the age of 47. The passing of Malik B., full name Malik Abdul Baset, was confirmed by Questlove and Black Thought in a post on social media on Wednesday, though no cause of death was provided:
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 and innovation as one of the most gifted MCs of all time. We ask that you please respect his family in our time of mourning pic.twitter.com/NVHtb2CFWP
— The Roots (@theroots) July 29, 2020
Malik B. joined up with Tariq Trotter (Black Thought) and Ahmir Thompson (Questlove) in the early 1990s while attending Millersville University in Pennsylvania. In 1993, the group that had come to be known as The Roots self-released their debut album, Organix, and signed with a label for the release of their second album, 1995’s Do You Want More?!!!??!. Malik B. and Black Thought remained a tandem at the mic for The Roots through their third, breakout album in 1996’s Illadelph Halflife, as well as 1999’s Things Fall Apart.
The Roots – “Proceed” (Official Video)
— Gerald Hawthorne (@jsoul27) July 29, 2020
As if The Roots’ fourth album was an omen, Malik B.’s involvement with the always-touring group began to show signs of wear around the turn of the century. Malik B. left The Roots in 2001, and Black Thought later referenced his departure on the group’s fifth album, 2002’s Phrenology. On “Water (The First Movement)”, Trotter rapped, “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’.”
While he left the group as a full-time member, his relationship with The Roots remained intact. Malik B. went on to make a number of guest appearances on the group’s seventh album, 2006’s Game Theory.
In the wake of Malik B.’s passing, various members of The Roots and the hip-hop world at large have offered up tributes to the MC. Read remembrances of Malik B. as penned by Questlove, Black Thought, Killer Mike, Chuck D, and more below:
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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.
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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
The God, Malik B is worthy or praise. https://t.co/bOdP6xiCMC
— Killer Mike (@KillerMike) July 30, 2020
Heard a good story today by my brother JAHI @HipHopEducate about the late MALIK B of @theroots As he was spotted eating in DC restaurant yrs ago . JAHI recognizes him . MALIK is stunned about it. They talked for awhile. He felt appreciated. This is what we do at @Rapstation365
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) July 29, 2020
Rest in power to the God Malik B. 🙏🏽
— Crime Rhyme Houdini (@JustBlaze) July 29, 2020
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