The music world has been stunned by the death of rapper Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly, 34, one half of the duo Kris Kross who exploded on the scene in 1992 with an infectious song, “Jump,” and an accompanying dance that had party-goers across the globe jumping up and down like pogo sticks.
The cause of Kelly’s death is being investigated as a possible drug overdose, Fulton County police Cpl. Kay Lester told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Kelly was found unresponsive in his Atlanta area home Wednesday afternoon and transported to Atlanta Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy will be performed Thursday morning.
With a signature style that featured Mac Daddy and his partner, Chris “Daddy Mac,” Smith, wearing their clothes backward, Kris Kross put Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def Records on the map as the first act he signed to his label.
Dupri, just 18 himself, discovered the 13-year-olds at Atlanta’s Greenbriar Mall in 1990.
The duo was the opening act earlier this year at a star-filled 20-year anniversary celebration for So So Def.
Kelly’s mother, Donna Kelly Pratte, and the So So Def Family put out a statement on Kelly’s passing:
“It is with deep sadness that we announce that our beloved Chris Kelly has passed away on May 1. 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. Though he was only with us a short time, we feel blessed to have been able to share some incredible moments with him. His legacy will live on through his music, and we will forever love him.”
Helped by the hugely successful single “Jump,” which was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for eight weeks and was certified double platinum as a single, the duo’s first album, “Totally Krossed Out,” sold four million copies in the U.S. alone. The pair also recorded the “Rugrats Rap” for Nickelodeon.
At the height of their fame, Kris Kross toured with Michael Jackson during his “Dangerous World Tour” and appeared in his video for the song “Jam,” where the king of pop teaches basketball great Michael Jordan how to moonwalk. They also appeared in the video for TLC’s song, “Hat 2 da Back,” and sold 100,000 copies of a VHS tape of their music videos for “Jump” and follow-up single “Warm It Up.” They went on to win a Billboard award for Best New Artist in 1992.
Kris Kross also released a video game called Make My Video, that gave the players pre-made video clips to the duo’s songs to merge into a new music video. But the video was not a financial success. Kriss Kross appeared on the sitcom “A Different World,” and the comedy show, “In Living Color,” and in television commercials for Sprite.
The group’s last album, “Young, Rich & Dangerous,” was released in 1996 and reached gold status, but the pair never again ascended to the lofty heights of “Jump.”
Yahoo! music writer Billy Johnson, Jr., who interviewed Kelly in February, spoke about what he had been doing lately.
“He actually was still working on music and recording. He said he had several hundred songs that he had recorded, and he had mentioned that during his time away from releasing music that he had actually gone back to school to learn how to be a studio engineer,” Johnson said, according to ABC News Radio.
Johnson said Kelly talked about his health after photos of him with patches of his hair missing surfaced online.
“I asked him about that and he said he had skin disease called alopecia and he said that those rumors had been very hurtful because people thought he had cancer and it wasn’t true,” Johnson said.
After his death, many celebrities tweeted out their condolences. LL Cool J tweeted a link to his new song, “Jump on It,” saying he was dedicating it to Kelly.
“R.I.P Chris Kelly. This song is now officially dedicated to you. May GOD embrace your soul & lift up your family,” he tweeted.