He was only 34 years old when he was found dead in Atlanta; expired from an apparent drug overdose. The deceased name was Chris Kelly, but to millions of fans he was better known as "Mac Daddy," one-half of the youthful 90's rap group, Kris Kross.
Kelly's death is just an additional notch to the number of rappers who've died from drug and/or health related causes in recent years. The list of names, as well as their causes of death is alarming.
Since 2011, hip-pop pioneer Heavy D, singer and rap chorus specialist Nate Dogg and New York rapper Tim Dog all died of ailments in their 40s. Now, Chris Kelly was found dead last week in Atlanta at the tragic age of only 34.
Some of the genre’s elder statesmen say they’re worried about the culture’s focus on youth, current emphasis on freewheeling partying and “you only live once” ethos, as popularized by Drake’s 2011 hit “The Motto.” (see below)
“Hip-hop being a lifestyle culture ... a part of American culture, you have to be mindful that somebody is going to grow old, age,” said rap pioneer Melle Mel. “At some point somebody has to realize that hip-hop has to learn how to grow up. It’s way too juvenile and it’s been that way for too long. It’s not really worth it to literally party yourself to death. It’s like committing suicide,” he added.
The 51-year-old rapper, who memorably warned in 1982’s “The Message” (see below) about urban youth who “lived so fast and died so young,” suffers chronic bronchitis from being around marijuana and cigarette smoke when he was performing.
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Yet one of the most shocking incidents was this year's hospitalization of Lil' Wayne (30) for multiple seizures. The New Orleans native told a Los Angeles radio station in March that he’s an epileptic.
Others in the hip-hop community have began to take notice and action as they enter their late 30s and 40s. Like any good performer, they've worked out how to keep the "illusion" solid as well as their health.
Though reputed to having quit multiple times, Snoop Dogg (41) still smokes marijuana heavily. But, he's stopped drinking over six years ago. “I used to drink alcohol as a fashion statement and you’re just drinking because you’re drinking. I don’t do that anymore. I drink water or cranberry juice,” he said. “I’m not cheap. I just don’t want to do this to my body anymore. I want to survive.”
With that line of thinking being more realistic, Wu-Tang Clan founder, RZA, believes urban culture has had trouble planning for the future since the 1980's.
He posited, “They said we should be dead or in jail by the age of 25. And I think we live like that. But what happens when you make it past 25? What happens when you make it to 30? What happens when you make it to 40? Are you prepared for life now? What I want to tell the hip-hop generation out there is that: There’s a chance you’re going to become a man. Be prepared for it.”