Malik Abdul Basit, better known by his stage name Malik B., has died at the age of 47, the band confirmed yesterday, July 29. The official cause of death is still unknown.
Malik was an integral founding member of The Roots along with Questlove and Black Thought. Although he eventually embarked on his own solo career, his work with The Roots on heir first four albums, Organix, Do You Want More?!!!??!, Illadelph Halflife, and Things Fall Apart, helped to not only cement the style of hip hop that would dominate Philadelphia and most of the east coast throughout the 1990’s, but also helped form a musical legacy that can still be felt today.
“We regretfully inform you of the passing of our beloved brother and long time Roots member Malik Abdul Basit,” the band wrote on their official Twitter account. “May he be remembered for his devotion to Islam and innovation as one of the most gifted MCs of all time.”
Black Thought took to Instagram to express his feeling about the passing of Malik. The MC reminisced on how the duo “resurrected a city from the ashes, put it on our backs and called it Illadelph,” and “created a lane together where there was none.” Black Thought went on to write, “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.”
Malik’s musical legacy with the Roots is still being felt today; the group’s ability to meld classic hip hop bars with live instrumentation and jazz sampling was some of the best early combinations of jazz and hip hop. Although electronic sampling took the place of instrumentation in rap throughout the 2000’s, it has made a strong return throughout the 2010’s, as artists like Anderson .Paak and Kendrick Lamar have embraced live instrumentation and jazz to use with hip hop, reviving its popularity. As series like NPR Tiny Desk continue to soar in popularity, the need for artists to embrace live instrumentation will only increase. Groups like the Roots were some of the early pioneers of melding hip hop with elements of jazz and live instrumentation, and their impact on hip hop and music as a whole will continue to be felt for decades to come.
Check out this Malik B. tribute video below: