Leonard “Hub” Hubbard, who was the longtime bassist for The Roots, died after a long battle with cancer on Thursday (Dec. 16). He was 62.
His stepdaughter India Owens confirmed the news to The Philadelphia Inquirer, which reported that the cause of death was multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer he had first been diagnosed with in 2007, the same year he left The Roots. His wife Stephanie told Philadelphia’s ABC 6, which was the first to report the story, that Hub was hospitalized Wednesday night at Lankenau Hospital. She said that Hub was “energetic and mobile” days before, and then, suddenly things took a turn for the worse.
“It happened quickly. He didn’t suffer a lot,” she told the local outlet.
The Roots issued a statement on their socials Thursday afternoon and shared a black-and-white photo of their former member. “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we say goodbye to our brother Leonard Nelson Hubbard. May your transition bring peace to your family to your friends to your fans and all of those who loved you. Rest in Melody Hub,” the band wrote.
Born Leonard Nelson Hubbard in the bands’ Philadelphia roots, he joined the hip-hop ensemble in 1992, right when the group changed its name from Square Roots to The Roots, with founding members Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Malik B, who died in July 2020. That same year, The Roots moved to London and released their debut album, Organix, in 1993.
Hub went on to perform with the band for 15 years and record six more studio albums with the act, from their 1995 sophomore album Do You Want More?!!!??! to Game Theory in 2006. In 2008, a year after he left the band following his diagnosis of multiple myeloma, the bassist reunited with the group at The Roots Picnic for a performance.
The seven-time Grammy nominee won his first and only Grammy Award in 2000 for best rap performance by a duo or group with “You Got Me” by The Roots, featuring Erykah Badu and Eve. The band’s hometown Philadelphia chapter of The Recording Academy awarded The Roots with the Heroes Award in 2004. The chapter’s president Donn Thompson Morelli, otherwise known as Donn T, took to Twitter to commemorate Hub.
— Donn T (@Donn_T) December 16, 2021
In 2016, Hub sued his bandmates Black Thought and Questlove and their manager Shawn Gee by claiming they failed to properly compensate him from a deal that made him co-owner of the band before his cancer diagnosis forced him to quit The Roots in 2007, just one year before The Roots became Jimmy Fallon’s in-house band on The Tonight Show. His wife told ABC 6 that the suit had not been settled.
Aside from his work with The Roots, Hub scored Bertha Bay-Sa Pan’s 2002 indie film Face and the 2006 documentary Darfur Diaries: Message From Home.
He’s survived by his wife Stephanie, stepdaughters India and Onita Owens, and stepson Edward Owens.