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July 31, 2020

Questlove shares hilarious story about how Malik B. was his 'oil guru' in Philly

Founding member of The Roots died this week at 47 years old

Musicians The Roots
Questlove Malik B Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa USA

Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson remembered the late Malik B. from his days as an aficionado of fragrant oils in Philadelphia, prior to the start of The Roots. Malik B. died this week at the age of 47.

In the days that have passed since the death of Malik Abdul Basit, tributes have poured in to honor the founding member of The Roots.

Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter offered a moving description of the way his counterpart pushed him to become one of the most respected lyricists and freestylers in hip-hop.

"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," Black Thought wrote Wednesday. "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****."

On Thursday, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, The Roots drummer and DJ, offered a lighter story from before the group's formation, when they were all just friends getting started in Philly.

Malik B. apparently was a connoisseur of oil fragrances, with all kinds of hook ups in the city. At the time, Questlove was interning for Ruffhouse Records, which included artists ranging from Cypress Hill and The Fujis to Lauryn Hill and Beanie Sigel.

In need of an oil re-up, Questlove called Malik B. to collect a batch he had paid for in advance. Malik B. agreed to make it happen, but the night turned into a series of diversions in Philadelphia. (Note: Part 2 of Questlove's story is the first comment on his Instagram post).

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📸 by @tdoteric A lighter tale of Malik Abdul Basit As a true Bol from philly you know that one’s oil game HAD to be on point. I came in this game rockin oils since age 9. Most of yall joke about me smelling like Breakfast (thx Kravitz clan) but long before my vanilla combo mastery my true graduation from basic Frankincense & Myrrh morphed into new exotic philly jawns like “Mecca Musk” & “Somali Rose” & “Egyptian Musk” & yeah…..”Money On the Street” & “Hug My Neck Aphrodisiac” Malik introduced me to that world. Even before Malik was in the Roots —-he was my oil guru. IYKYK...there is no panic like the last drop of oil w no re-up in the future. I been bugging Malik for my “$OTS” re-up. Paged him 911 (ask your parents kids) he was hard to catch but I knew I had some leverage bait this time: these were my last days interning at #RuffhouseRecords. I was everyone’s plug for all free cd’s/lp’s & especially Kriss Kross posters for anyone’s younger sibling or cousin Tim Dog’s sophomore Do or Die just came out (his “I Get Wrecked” single w KRS made brief noise for a sec) & I had 6 songs from the not yet released Cypress Hill “Black Sunday” lp——that was just enough to garner a “word? BET!” confirmation from Malik to tell me that him & Mussa (remember the cat dozing off watching TV in our “Distorion” vid? Him) would scoop me in a half hour. Confused I thought it was gonna be an even exchange (having paid him upfront weeks ago at a show I thought he was gonna drop it off——ha ha ha yeah ok They arrive to my west philly house and then Malik breaks the news to me: we gotta take a trip to “Norf” to get the oils. I wasn’t planning on this. But oh well. It was 3pm. Malik told me the particular fragrance I dug was a mixture of 3 import oils from Saudi Arabia (his parents often taught school there) my dad was already on his cynic “fool me once….” bag with Malik from a previous sale: “that boy tried to hustle me with Blue Nile that wasn’t all the way Blue, I know Johnson’s baby oil rebranded when I smell it”)——Malik told me we’d have to run to grab 2 oils & then West Oak Lane for the other oil, & then to South Philly so he can mix em together. Uh (checks Swatch) ok.

A post shared by Questlove Froman, (@questlove) on

Here's the full story: 

A lighter tale of Malik Abdul Basit

As a true Bol from philly you know that one’s oil game HAD to be on point. I came in this game rockin oils since age 9. Most of yall joke about me smelling like Breakfast (thx Kravitz clan) but long before my vanilla combo mastery my true graduation from basic Frankincense & Myrrh morphed into new exotic philly jawns like “Mecca Musk” & “Somali Rose” & “Egyptian Musk” & yeah…..”Money On the Street” & “Hug My Neck Aphrodisiac”

Malik introduced me to that world.

Even before Malik was in the Roots —-he was my oil guru.

IYKYK...there is no panic like the last drop of oil w no re-up in the future.

I been bugging Malik for my “$OTS” re-up. Paged him 911 (ask your parents kids) he was hard to catch but I knew I had some leverage bait this time: these were my last days interning at #RuffhouseRecords. I was everyone’s plug for all free cd’s/lp’s & especially Kriss Kross posters for anyone’s younger sibling or cousin

Tim Dog’s sophomore Do or Die just came out (his “I Get Wrecked” single w KRS made brief noise for a sec) & I had 6 songs from the not yet released Cypress Hill “Black Sunday” lp——that was just enough to garner a “word? BET!” confirmation from Malik to tell me that him & Mussa (remember the cat dozing off watching TV in our “Distorion” vid? Him) would scoop me in a half hour. Confused I thought it was gonna be an even exchange (having paid him upfront weeks ago at a show I thought he was gonna drop it off——ha ha ha yeah ok

They arrive to my west philly house and then Malik breaks the news to me: we gotta take a trip to “Norf” to get the oils. I wasn’t planning on this. But oh well.

It was 3pm.

Malik told me the particular fragrance I dug was a mixture of 3 import oils from Saudi Arabia (his parents often taught school there) my dad was already on his cynic “fool me once….” bag with Malik from a previous sale: “that boy tried to hustle me with Blue Nile that wasn’t all the way Blue, I know Johnson’s baby oil rebranded when I smell it”)——Malik told me we’d have to run to grab 2 oils & then West Oak Lane for the other oil, & then to South Philly so he can mix em together.

Uh (checks Swatch) ok.

So car music provider & I’m covering gas. —“Let’s run to Halal Cheesesteaks at the Steak n Take spot on broad” so now I’m covering food too.

it’s now 4:50 pm & I’m livin somewhere between that frustrating barbershop episode of “Atlanta” & Scorsese’s ’85 classic “After Hours”—we didn’t even make it to our 2nd stop yet because the untold added on errands list got bigger: “lemme stop by the shop & get my license right quick” (wait WHAT?!?!!?) “aye Troy!!! Troy!!!! pull over you remember Troy” (uh no I don’t)——now we giving Troy a lift (where to? dunno) —what I do know is Dog’s “Timberlands” is on it’s 3rd rotation.

It’s 6:15 & I still don’t smell good yet.

“so Mir you think we gonna be on Elektra? Or maybe Def Jam?, or maybe like Jive cause that’s where KRS and them signed right?”……when is the EastWest showcase? We should do “Grits” yo”……..

Sitting in a car pondering & dreaming about our future. A year ago we were busking for change in a shoebox on South St. & we might have a record deal BEFORE summer??!??!

Round 8 o’clock I think we made it to his boy’s crib where he left the remaining oils——by the 5th rotation I’m realizing Tim Dog used the “Dove” Cymande sample I wanted to mess with.

Malik promised soon as we hit South Philly he will “hook the jawns up” & he’ll gimme triple the oils for my trouble. 

Sounds fair.

My eyes are slowly opening. The car is parked. Its dark. I’m assuming I’m in South Philly cause this looks like Riq’s grandma’s section. I have no clue what is going on. The digital dashboard clock says 9:03, there is a seatbelt mark on my face & neck, my half eaten steak & leftover fries are in a bag on the seat next to me. With the exception of the bus driving down the block it is Vanilla Sky empty. I’m in the back of this cramped hatchback—for what seems like a plane trip to LA—-in the back of my mind I was like “shoulda listened to dad” I have no clue where I am—-I got out the car. Grabbed my trizzy (ask a Philadelphian) took the bus to Walnut St & took the 42 home.

It was 10:45. 

It doesn't sound like Questlove ever got that Saudi oil mixture, does it?

Malik B. could be anyone's eccentric friend whose hijinks get a pass because hanging with them is too amusing and fun to care what happens. 

The stories from Black Thought and Questlove show how integral Malik B. was to the spirit of The Roots and how his connectedness to Philadelphia gave them confidence in the group's early days. While years have passed since he was full-time member of the group, The Roots' path to late night TV and wider fame is owing in some ways to the foundation he helped lay.

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