The Lead

Malik B, founding member of Philly’s The Roots, dead at 47

By: - July 29, 2020 7:08 pm

(Photo via Philadelphia Tribune)

By Jamyra Perry

PHILADELPHIA — One of the founding members of The Roots, Malik B., has died at the age of 47.

Malik’s cousin, former CBS News correspondent Don Champion, confirmed the rapper’s death in a tweet.

“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,” Champion tweeted.

Malik B., whose full name was Malik Abdul Basit, rapped and sang on the first four albums released by The Roots, before he left the group in 1999 and went on to do solo work. He later returned as a featured artist for The Roots’ seventh studio album, “Game Theory” and eighth studio album “Rising Down.”

“Water” from The Roots fifth album, “Phrenology,” talks about how Black Thought and Malik met, which led to the eventual development of The Roots.

The song says, “I met Slacks back in, like, ’91 rapping. We went to Millersville to get away from gun clappin’. It ain’t last. I be in class dreaming ’bout 50,000 fans up in the stands screaming out”.

Slacks was a college nickname Malik earned during his time at Millersville University, but his close friends pronounced his name “Malick.”

“We made a name and carved a lane together where there was none. We resurrected a city from the ashes, put it on our backs and called it Illadelph,” his post said.

Trotter said the two made each other better by challenging each other through the years.

“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 b—-,” he said.

The Roots frontman went on to say that he eventually learned that he had to accept his friend Malik for who he was and hoped his friend did the same.

“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 said.

West Oak Lane native Carlos Foster met Malik back in the early ’90s through a mutual friend and stayed in contact over the years.

Foster remembers the long conversations the two of them would have about religion. Malik B. was a Muslim and Foster is a Christian.

“Malik was really deep and heavy into his Islam and me being a Christian, we always talked about those different things, including religion, life and everything. We often talked about how we served the same god, but it was different religions,” Foster said.

Foster said his friend loved music and was still working behind the scenes, but he said he hopes that his friend will be remembered for his giving nature.

“He was an all-around good guy, a real people person that would help anyone,” Foster said. “He was the type of guy that if young guys that were up-and-coming rappers, he wouldn’t charge them up to do a verse on their track. Half the time, he did it for nothing no money at all, just to do it. They could see him and say, ‘hey, we want you to drop a line on a song or whatever for new artists that were coming up and he was always doing that.”

Jamyra Perry is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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