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Malik B, founding member of The Roots, has died

The Philadelphia rapper won a Grammy with The Roots in 2000

  • Words: Patrick Hinton | Photo: T. Eric Monroe
  • 29 July 2020
Malik B, founding member of The Roots, has died

Malik Abdul Baset aka Malik B, a longtime member of Philadelphia rap group The Roots, has died aged 47.

The Roots announced the news on Twitter, writing: “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 and innovation as one of the most gifted MCs of all time.” No cause of death has yet been made public.

Malik B joined up with Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter, who had already been performing together under names such as Radio Activity and Black to the Future, and bass player Leonard “Hub” Hubbard to form the first iteration of The Roots (then known as The Square Roots) in the late 1980s. They shortened the name to The Roots in 1992 after becoming aware of a local folk group already known as The Square Roots.

Malik B remained a permanent member across the group’s first four albums: from 1993 debut ‘Organix’ through 1995’s ‘Do You Want More?!!!??!’, 1996’s ‘Illadelph Halflife’ and 1999’s ‘Things Fall Apart’. The latter is considered to be their breakthrough album, becoming their first to sell over 500,000 copies. It was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 2000 but missed out to Eminem’s ‘The Slim Shady LP’, although the track ‘You Got Me’ did win the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.

Malik B left The Roots prior to the release of their 2002 album ‘Phrenology’. The terms of his leaving were never officially revealed, although Black Thought references the departure on the 'Phrenology' track ‘Water’, which is dedicated to Malik B and tells the story of their meeting and formation of The Roots.

Malik B later made guest features on three tracks on The Roots’ seventh album ‘Game Theory’, and two tracks on their 2008 album ‘Rising Down’. In 2005 he put out a solo mixtape titled ‘Street Assault’, and in 2015 collaborated with Mr. Green to release the album ‘Unpredictable’.

Malik B’s cousin Don Champion paid tribute to the late rapper on Twitter, writing: "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. He'd give me and my dad their cassette tapes to listen to. I miss you already, Mailk."

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