Remembering Malik B (1972-2020)

Zilla Rocca remembers the co-founder of the Roots as a hometown hero.
By    July 30, 2020

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Zilla Rocca is South Philly through his arteries. 

Malik B was a rap god in Philly without a 10 minute Funkmaster Flex freestyle.

He grounded The Roots, who at different times in their career were chasing Native Tongues, Slum Village, and Radiohead.

“Now back to the topic of
The rap philosoph-er
With more drama than a soap oper-a”

He was most at home on dust-encased beats from DJ Krush (“Meiso”) and Da Beatminerz (“Proceed Remix”).

You never heard him smile or laugh on record.

“Knuckle games, or hammers cocked, ain’t nothing sweet or soft”

When he parted ways with the group amidst rumors of drug use, the 5th Dynasty tried and failed to replace him for years.

All due respect to Dice Raw, Peedi Crakk, STS Gold, Truck North, and Greg P0rn, but reshuffling the deck could never match M-ill-i-tant.

Malik didn’t scat or harmonize.

Biggie loved Black Thought on “Lazy Afternoon” but there’s a reason Malik went last on “Clones”

“I breeze through areas where brothas are scared to walk in”

When The Roots were at their jazziest, playing for coffee shop chicks and white dudes, Malik Blunt was just that:

Plain spoken

“We all search for sanity but I think that it was lost again”

By the time Game Theory dropped, Dilla had passed. The Roots needed comfort and strength.

Malik B re-emerged sharp as ever on that album, crystallized by the streets with no drop off.

“Dreams with M-16’s with infrared beams
Blowing up president’s cribs with cans of kerosene”

Years later, he collaborated with Mr. Green for the album Unpredictable.

“Malik would show up at the studio with a garbage bag of rhymes and go through them. Some of them were old and weathered, literally falling apart”, describes Mr. Green. “Then he would just start recording the song in one take: intro, verses, chorus. It was nothing like I’d seen before”.

What kind of rapper has trash bags full of excess murdergrams and lays them down like batting practice?

Malik B aka Malik Blunt aka M-ill-i-Tant

Black Thought and him went to Millersville College to get away from gun clapping.

Philly was on fire in the ’80s and ’90s – the MOVE bombing, Frank Rizzo openly courting racist and brutal police methods, the crack epidemic, Dr. J retiring, Buddy Ryan wasting one of the greatest defenses in NFL history.

You would think it was the perfect time to escape to Central Pennsylvania, and then later London, and then later as a touring jazz-rap band signed to Geffen Records hitting the road 200 nights a year.

But Malik was still shouting out brothas with “hearts so cold they sport frost”.

His flow was nimble. He stretched syl-a-balles. He was jazzy without being happy go lucky. He made Black Thought work for every prop he would later be showered with around the world.

There has never been a rapper from my city who didn’t swear up and down that he was behind, beneath, or below Tariq Trotter.

Malik B was enigmatic but he always delivered.

“Perhaps I’ll go to court this time when I’m summoned
But I’m a rebel to the system, so I might not be comin”

Rest well.

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