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Malik B, The Roots Founding Member, Dies at 47

Rapper played major role in iconic group's formation before leaving in 1999

Malik B., an early member of The Roots and a celebrated Philadelphia emcee, has died at the age of 47. His death was initially reported Wednesday on Twitter by his cousin Don Champion and later confirmed by the Roots themselves. A cause of death was not given.

“We regretfully inform you of the passing of our beloved brother and long time Roots member Malik Abdul Baset,” the Roots wrote in a statement via Twitter. “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.”

Baset was a key contributor to the Roots’ first four albums — 1993’s Organix, 1994’s Do You Want More?!!!??!, 1996’s Illadelph Halflife, and 1999’s Things Fall Apart — before departing the lineup in 1999. Things Fall Apart was their first to sell over a half-million copies and earned them two Grammy nods, including one victory, at the 2000 ceremony.

The rapper later contributed guest spots on 2006’s Game Theory and 2008’s Rising Down. After his lengthy stint with the storied jazz-infused hip-hop collective, he embarked on a solo career, including an EP and two albums, the most recent being Unpredictable, his 2016 collaboration with producer Mr. Green.

The hip-hop community, from Philly and beyond, mourned the death of one of the genre’s greats on Wednesday. In a moving Instagram statement, Roots rapper Black Thought wrote, “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. 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.”