Rapper Chris Kelly has died at the age of 34. The hip hop star died in an Atlanta hospital after being found unresponsive at his home.
Kelly was a teen sensation in the early 1990s as part of the rap duo, Kris Kross, with childhood pal Chris Smith. The group had a hit single, "Jump," and their trademark style included wearing their clothes backwards.
In a statement to Us Weekly, Kelly's mom, Donna Kelly Pratt, said, "To millions of fans worldwide, he was the trendsetting, backwards pants-wearing one-half of Kris Kross who loved making music. But to us, he was just Chris - the kind, generous and fun-loving life of the party … His legacy will live on through his music, and we will forever love him."
Chris Kelly's death is the latest in a long line of rappers who've died at a young age. Here are five more rappers whose lives were cut short.
N.W.A. rapper Eazy-E (born Eric Wright) died in 1995 at the age of 31. While the gangster rap pioneer's death was attributed to complications from AIDS, in 2011 his protégé B.G. Knocc Out said he believed there was more to it. In an interview with Hip Hop DX, Knocc Out said, "I believe in my heart somebody did something to Eric. Whether it was Jerry [Heller, Eazy's partner at Ruthless Records], whether it was [his widow] Tomica [Woods-Wright], I have yet to really know the truth about it." Knocc Out's single, "N My Prime," also declares, "The way my big homie went out, he didn't deserve it / Try to say he died of AIDS, but Eazy was cold murdered."
While Eazy-E left behind seven children, two of his kids have gone on to careers in the music business. According to MTV, his son Lil Eazy-E is a rapper, and his daughter E.B. Wright has gone the pop route after appearing on the MTV shows "My Super Sweet 16," "Sweet 16 Reunion" and "TRL Countdown."
Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard (born Russell Jones) died in 2004 at the age of 35. The controversial rapper collapsed in a recording studio after mixing cocaine and the prescription drug Tramadol. According to Rolling Stone, the troubled rapper had been working on a new album and had said of his recent prison release, "I feel good. I'm happy my eyes are open. I'm all right physically and mentally…The first thing I wanted to do was give my mother a hug."
ODB -- who also went by the nicknames Big Baby Jesus, Dirt McGirt, Osirus and Joe Bananas -- was survived by his mother, Cherry Jones, and a reported thirteen children. In a 2008 email to MTV News, Jones said, "For the past four years, I have sat back and watched certain individuals try and tarnish my son's beliefs. My son loved every single one of his children and every single one of their mothers and provided for them all the best he could when he was alive. My son was an extremely generous soul. I will always love my son Rusty and I will always make sure all of his children are taken care of."
Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes
In 2002, hip hop star Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes died in a head-on car collision in Honduras. The 30-year-old member of the girl group TLC was known for her trademark eyeglasses with a condom in place of the left-eye lens. Following the rapper's death, Lopes' fellow TLC band mate, Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas told CNN, "She was our sister, you know? And no matter what we went through, we're sisters. You know sisters argue, and they kiss and make up and that's just how our relationship was...Through us, people will always remember Lisa. We'll always be a group. It doesn't stop." Later that year, TLC's fourth and final album, "3D," was released.
Amid the notorious East Coast- West Coast hip hop rivalry, in 1996 West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. He was 25 years old. The legendary rapper had just left the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon prizefight when he was shot four times while riding in a BMW. According to the New York Times, Shakur's lawyer Shawn S. Chapman said, ''It's really unfortunate that the violent perception that the world has of that young man may be exacerbated by the way he died: art is being confused with real life. There was this wonderful, charming, bright, talented, funny person that no one is going to get to know; they are just going to know this other side. Hopefully, this will have some positive effect on people -- the gang members -- who are shooting each other.''
In 2013, Shakur's mother, Afeni Shakur, head of his estate and founder of the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, said there may be more of her son's work available in the future. According to Billboard, Afeni Shakur said, "I believe it is our responsibility to make sure that Tupac's entire body of work is made available for his fans. My son left many incomplete pieces and even more unfinished ideas. Using the blueprints he gave us, I am committed to fulfilling this duty."
In one of the most shocking hip hop music deaths in history, in 1997 Christopher Wallace -- known in the rap world as Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls -- died in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, just six months after Shakur's murder. (Both homicides are still unsolved.) Biggie was leaving a music industry party when someone fired shots into the Chevrolet Suburban he was riding in.
In 2012 -- 15 years after the rapper's death -- Biggie's mother, Voletta Wallace, told LA Weekly she believed her son's nemesis, Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight, had something to do with his murder. "Over all these years I've been trying to find the truth," she said, "Why isn't Suge Knight behind bars? What are the police waiting for? They murdered my son. LAPD, make a goddamn arrest."
During a 2012 interview on Howard Stern's radio show, Knight denied having anything to do with the murder. "If he would have been around long enough Biggie definitely would have been a Death Row artist. He was one of the greatest rappers in the business," he said.
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- Death & Funeral
- Arts & Entertainment
- Kris Kross
- Tupac Shakur