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Hip-hop trendsetter Chris Kelly dies at 34

AMBER TAFARI LARAQUE Special to the AmNews | 5/11/2013, 11:20 a.m.

The hip-hop community received sad news when they found out that one of their own, Chris Kelly, passed away at the age of 34 on Wednesday, May 1.

Kelly was found in his home, unconscious, and died later at a hospital in Atlanta. He had allegedly been battling drug addiction. The autopsy report has not concluded a cause of death as of yet.

Anyone who was around in the early '90s hip-hop era can remember the fashion trends that were popular. Bamboo earrings, baggy pants, and lots of color were requirements for being "fly." But there was perhaps no trend more unique as the backward clothing trend pioneered by two young rappers known collectively as Kris Kross. Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly and Chris "Daddy Mac" Smith did not stop at wearing their caps backward, but wore backward shirts, pants and even sunglasses. If they could have found a way to wear their shoes backward, they probably would have done that, too.

Kelly was born Aug. 11, 1978, and at the age of 13, he and friend Chris Smith were discovered by an 18-year-old producer named Jermaine Dupri in Atlanta.

Dupri formed the duo, and in 1992, they dropped their single, "Jump." The track skyrocketed to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 and remained there for eight weeks. Their debut album went multi-platinum. They even toured with Michael Jackson on his Dangerous World Tour.

With such rapid success, the duo set the bar high for themselves, and they were never able to attain the same success they had with their first project. Puberty and image change contributed to that.

Rappers and industry insiders all expressed their condolences to Kelly's family. Friends of the late rapper expressed their shock.

Rapper Da Brat, also discovered by Dupri and So So Def label mates with Kris Kross, tweeted, "This is unreal."

Kelly's partner Smith released a statement saying, "Chris Kelly was my best friend. He was like a brother. I love him and will miss him dearly."

Dupri said in a statement via Twitter, "To the world, Chris was Mac Daddy, but to me he was the son I never had. As much as you may think I taught him, he taught me."

Kelly's mother, Donna Kelly Pratte, along with the So So Def Family, shared this statement: "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."

Kelly's funeral will be held in Atlanta on May 9.