The Philadelphia rapper Malik Abdul Basit, who recorded as Malik B., has died. Basit was one of the founding members of the Roots, the long-running and beloved hip-hop band, who confirmed his death to Rolling Stone. No cause of death has been reported yet. Basit was 47.
“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 Roots’ drummer Questlove and rapper Black Thought said in a statement. “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.”
Questlove and Black Thought originally formed the Philadelphia rap group Square Roots when both were students at the Philadelphia High School For The Creative And Performing Arts in 1987. Along with bassist Leonard “Hub” Hubbard, Malik B. joined soon after.
The hard, athletic interplay between Malik and Black Thought was a hugely important component of the Roots’ early albums, up to and including the 1999 classic Things Fall Apart. Where Black Thought sometimes radiated a cold and clinical mastery, Malik was more energetic and playful, though he was nearly as technical as Black Thought. But while the Roots were a hugely prolific live act, Malik never liked touring. He left the Roots in 1999, largely over those difficulties and his own personal struggles.
In the years after he left the Roots, Malik made music sporadically. He released two albums independently, 2005’s Street Assault and 2015’s Unpredictable; the latter was a collaboration with producer Mr. Green. Malik also joined the Roots on some songs from two excellent latter-day albums, 2006’s Game Theory and 2008’s Rising Down.
Below, watch some of Malik’s work.