Photo via @TheRoots on Twitter.
Malik B. – skilled MC and co-founder of The Roots – has died. He was 47.
“We regretfully inform you of the passing of our beloved brother and long time Roots member Malik Abdul Baset,” reads a message on The Roots’ Twitter account. “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.”
Added The Roots’ Black Thought via Instagram, “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 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.”
Malik B. formed The Roots with Black Thought and Questlove in their native Philadelphia, and the late rapper helped usher in the band’s first two albums 1993’s Organix and 1995’s Do You Want More?!!!??!
According to a 2002 cover story in The Fader, Malik B.’s “Arabic name meant either ‘God, like King’ or ‘the keeper of Hell’ depending on how one pronounced it.” And, clearly, that duality eventually came to a head. After appearing on 1996’s Illadelph Halflife and 1999’s Things Fall Apart Malik B. left the group.
The emotional fallout of Malik B.’s departure was captured in the The Roots’ 2002 track “Water,” chronicling Black Thought’s grief over Malik B.’s affection for the street lifestyle and ongoing drug issues.
The late rapper did – however – continue making music.
He appeared sporadically on later releases by The Roots (namely tracks like “Game Theory,” “I Can’t Help It” and “Lost Desire”), and released a few EPs on his own.
His most recent project Unpredictable, dropped in 2016 with the help of producer Mr. Green.
“Rip to the great Malik B,” Mr. Green wrote following his death. “This one hurts.”