Malik Abdul Basit, known to fans and admirers of endlessly influential rap group The Roots as Malik B., has died. Per CNN, Basit was 47. No cause of death has been announced.
The news was announced via the social media accounts of The Roots, which Malik B. joined back in the early ’90s, ahead of the release of the group’s first album. The group’s second MC—after founding member Black Thought—Malik B. spent roughly a decade with the band, fleshing out its sound and ambitions, touring extensively as they came to prominence (first in Europe, and then Stateside) and was generally instrumental in the development of The Roots as a modern-day hip-hop institution.
Malik left the group in 1999, although he occasionally returned for guest spots on later albums. The group addressed his departure most notably with “Water,” off of Phrenology, the first album after he left; the song, which contains numerous requests for its subject to give up drugs and overcome their demons, is generally seen as being addressed from Black Thought to Malik B.. Basit later released two solo albums, Street Assault in 2005, and Unpredictable in 2015.
Black Thought commemorated Malik B. on social media earlier today, writing:
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.