Malik B. (born Abdul Basit)—a lyricist who was one of the founding members of The Roots—died unexpectedly, The Roots announced on July 29. Basit was 47; the cause of his death was not specified.

The Philly native used his lyrical skills alongside those of Black Thought to help turn The Root’s first four albums into hip hop classics: “Organix” (1993), “Do You Want More?!!!??!” (1995), “Illadelph Halflife” (1996) and “Things Fall Apart” (1999). After pursuing a solo career, Basit returned to The Roots for 2006’s “Game Theory” and 2008’s “Rising Down.” He produced his 2015 album “Unpredictable” with New York-based producer Mr. Green.

Black Thought published a tribute to Basit on Instagram:


We made a name and carved a lane together where there was none. We ressurected 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. 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 bitch. 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. #MalikB #TheLegendaryRootsCrew

A post shared by Black Thought (@blackthought) on Jul 29, 2020 at 12:10pm PDT

Watch a 2012 video of Basit in freestyle mode, courtesy of Marsten House:

As music industry insiders and fans mourn Basit’s passing, many have taken to social media to express their deep sadness: