The Roots are in deep mourning, and so are their fans over the passing of founding member Malik B., whose death was confirmed by his bandmates on Wednesday, July 29. Malik was 47 years old, and his cause of death has yet to be revealed.
“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,” read a message on the group’s Twitter page. “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.”
The Roots’ lead vocalist Black Thought also shared a message about his fallen comrade and said how much he inspired him.
“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,” wrote Thought on Wednesday, July 29. “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.”
He continued, “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. The world just lost a real one. May Allah pardon you, forgive your sins and grant you the highest level of paradise.”
Thought met Malik B in 1991 and both attended Millersville University in Pennsylvania, located about two hours outside of The Roots’ hometown of Philadelphia.
Thought already knew group member Questlove at that time, since they were students at Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. It was there, they would form a band called The Square Roots.
Malik joined the group before their debut album “Organix” came, which they released independently in 1993 as The Roots.
The late rapper would then contribute verses to some of the band’s follow-up LPs, including their major label debut “Do You Want More?!!!??!,” their nearly flawless third album “Illadelph Halflife” and “Things Fall Apart,” a release that pushed The Roots into the mainstream. That has much to do with Erykah Badu being on the Grammy Award-winning single “You Got Me.”
But Malik stopped being a full-time member of the band once their 2002 album “Phrenology” was released.
That album contains a song titled “Water,” where Thought raps about Malik being addicted to drugs and street life, something he also mentioned in his Instagram tribute to him.
But Malik rejoined The Roots on their 2006 release “Game Theory” and again on their LP “Rising Down” two years later. However, he wasn’t with them when they became the house band for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in 2009.
The late Philadelphia lyricist released a few solo projects in his career, including “Street Assault” in 2005, an EP titled “Psychological” in 2006, and “Unpredictable” in 2015, a collaboration album with producer Mr. Green.
Questlove also posted a message on Instagram about Malik on Wednesday, where he spoke about their shared history and the conversations they had about one day signing a record deal.
“Sitting in a car pondering & dreaming about our future,” wrote Quest. “A year ago we were busking for change in a shoebox on South St. & we might have a record deal BEFORE summer??!??!”