The Roots’ Black Thought and Questlove Sued By the Estate of Former Bassist

LOS ANGELES CA  MARCH 02  Vocalist Tariq Black Thought Trotter and band The Roots perform onstage during the 38th annual...

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The Roots’ Black Thought and Questlove Sued By the Estate of Former Bassist

Filed by Leonard “Hub” Hubbard’s widow, the suit claims that they violated federal RICO statutes by manipulating business ventures

Stephanie Hubbard, the widow of the Roots’ former bassist, Leonard “Hub” Hubbard, is suing her late husband’s colleagues, alleging that they violated federal RICO statutes in handling the band’s finances. Questlove and Black Thought are both named in the suit, along with manager Shawn Gee, Live Nation Entertainment, and other business entities connected to the band over the years. A representative for the Roots offered no comment.

Leonard Hubbard first joined Questlove and Black Thought in an early iteration of the Roots, then called the Square Roots. He remained with the group from 1992 through 2007, departing in the wake of a blood cancer diagnosis. Hubbard died as a result of the cancer in 2021. 

In court documents viewed by Pitchfork, Hubbard’s estate claims that Grand Negaz Inc., the company established in 1993 to handle the band’s business dealings, allotted the bassist a 17 percent share, with Questlove and Black Thought each entitled to 35 percent (vocalist Malik B. also received 17 percent). The estate makes similar claims regarding additional entities set up in 1999 and 2000 to handle the band’s publishing and touring.

The suit alleges that Black Thought and Questlove used their Roots business apparatuses to arrange other ventures related to the band and personal matters. All the while, Hubbard remained a stakeholder in their original corporation. Though he was no longer actively performing in the Roots, the suit maintains that Hubbard was not paid according to the original agreement, and that the money owed to Hubbard was instead used to fund the other Roots-related projects. 

Calling Questlove and Black Thought “the Plotters,” the suit further claims that, in April 2013, the Roots transferred all of their assets—including those ostensibly owed to Hubbard, and without his knowledge—to a new enterprise, Legendelphia LLC. “The RICO Defendants unlawfully, while using racketeering activities…took the monies of Plaintiff-Decedent, and harmed [his] music businesses,” the suit reads in part. The accusations of “racketeering activities” include “forgery, wire fraud, bank fraud, mail fraud, and criminal copyright infringement.”

Stephanie Hubbard’s attorney, Luke Lucas, shared the following statement with Pitchfork:

I wish that people who create music together would look out for each other.  Ms Hubbard is the widow of a great musician and Philadelphia native, an undisputed founding member of a great hip hop band.  Fame should not deter fairness for those who made your success possible.  There would likely not be a Roots had there not been Leonard Hubbard.

Leonard Hubbard had previously sued his former bandmates on similar grounds back in 2016, claiming that he had not been compensated properly as a co-founder of the band.

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