Malik Abdul Basit (aka Malik B.), a rapper, singer and longtime member of The Roots, died Wednesday. He was 47. The Roots announced Basit’s death in a statement on the group’s verified Twitter account but did not provide a cause of death.
“We regretfully inform you of the passing of our beloved brother and long time Roots member Malik Abdul Basit,” the statement read. “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.”
No cause of death was released.
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.
He and Black Thought had an easygoing bond on those early Roots albums, trading verses with an obvious affection for each other. “Mellow My Man,” one of the smoothest grooves from the Roots’ 1995 major-label debut, Do You Want More?!!!?!, begins with an invocation of their friendship: “Yes, the Roots laying back, relaxin’/Cooling out with my man, Malik B, we call him Slaxon,” Black Thought raps. The rest of the song is almost entirely about their laid-back connection, with some classic Nineties-rap punchlines from Malik thrown in (“Change my name to Saran or Reynolds, then I wrap ‘em”). Malik holds his own on the whole album, his verses standing out as much as those of Black Thought. “I Remain Calm” (rhymes with “lyrically, I got the bomb”) includes some of his coolest talk: “I write an anthem, throw a tantrum, and remain handsome/Mysterious vibes, like I was the Phantom.”
After his departure, Black Thought addressed Malik B.’s split from the group in the song “Water (The First Movement),” from Phrenology, alluding to drug use and a resistance to touring:
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’
Regardless, Malik B. was a guest on three songs from Game Theory, The Roots’ seventh album, released in 2006. He also released an EP, Psychological, the same year.