Malik B., Philadelphia hip-hop legend and co-founding member of The Roots, has died at the age of 47.
The Roots themselves subsequently confirmed the news on their Instagram, writing, “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 Baset.”
“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 group’s statement added.
Malik B. founded The Roots alongside Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter in 1987, and appeared on the group’s first four studio albums before departing in 1999 to pursue a solo career. He later reunited with The Roots on their 2006 album Game Theory and its 2008 follow-up, Rising Down.
Black Thought posted his own heartfelt tribute to Instagram, writing, “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,” Black Thought added. “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.”
Beyond his work with The Roots, Malik B. released a pair of solo albums, including 2015’s Unpredictable with Mr. Green, and was a member of the Philadelphia rap collective Beard Gang alongside Freeway.
Listen to a selection of Roots tracks featuring Malik B. below.