Malik B., founding member of The Roots, dies at 47

"I can only hope to have made you as proud as you made me," Roots bandmate Black Thought said. "The world just lost a real one."

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By Tim Stelloh

Malik Abdul Basit, a Philadelphia hip-hop vocalist known as Mailk B. who was an early member of The Roots, has died, the group announced Wednesday. He was 47.

"May he be remembered for his devotion to Islam and innovation as one of the most gifted MCs of all time," The Roots tweeted.

The cause of death wasn't immediately clear.

Basit met founding members Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter and Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson in Philadelphia, the group's hometown. He appeared on The Roots' first four albums, including "Illadelph Halflife" in 1996 and the 1999 breakthrough record "Things Fall Apart."

Basit struggled with substance abuse issues and left the group before returning on 2006's "Game Theory." He released a solo album and an EP in the mid-2000s.

Writing Wednesday on Instagram about Basit, Trotter said they "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. 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," he wrote.

"I can only hope to have made you as proud as you made me," he added. "The world just lost a real one."

Variety contributed.