Today, July 29, Malik Abdul Basit, a rapper, singer and founding member of The Roots, has died at 47.
A statement posted on the group’s verified Twitter account stated, “We regretfully inform you of the passing of our beloved brother and long-time Roots member Malik Abdul Basit.” Also, “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.”
His cousin, Don Champion, broke the news on Twitter when he reshared old performance footage of Malik B. at NYC’s The Bowery Electric. “Mourning my beloved cousin today. He was so talented and had a huge heart. I still remember when he and The Roots were starting out,” Champion wrote. “He’d give me and my dad their cassette tapes to listen to. I miss you already, Mailk. #RIP.”
It’s unclear what caused his death … neither the band nor Malik’s family have released details.
Malik B. Was born November 14, 1972, was part of the Philadelphia-based group from its early beginnings to about 1999, when he departed amid group tensions detailed in the song “Water” from The Roots album “Phrenology.” Written by Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, the track speaks to Basit’s struggles with addiction.
Basit went on to produce solo material and, several years after his departure, also appeared on several tracks on Roots albums.
Born Malik Abdul Basit in The Roots’ home base of Philadelphia, Penn., he befriended high school buddies Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, who began performing together under the name Square Roots in 1987, while they attended Millersville University in Lancaster. They officially dropped “Square” from their Square Roots hip-hop ensemble name in 1992 before moving to London and releasing their debut album Organix the following year.