Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,320
This is the grave of Chris Kelly.
Born in 1978 in Atlanta, Kelly grew up in the burgeoning rap world that came out of New York but soon made a home in Atlanta. He was into it. So was his friend Chris Smith. They started performing around, on the streets and then in clubs. In 1991, they were rapping inside a mall in Atlanta when Jermaine Dupri, a burgeoning young rap producer strolled by, checked them out, and thought they had real potential. He turned them into a band and a look–yep, this is Kriss Kross. Kelly was Mac Daddy in the group, which is a pretty funny name for a kid. OK dude.
Now, Kriss Kross was famous for one thing–wearing their clothes backwards, including their pants. That was their thing. And it’s hard to remember this band for anything else. It’s not as if they were long lasting, but they did have success. Totally Krossed Out, released in 1992, was a big hit. The thing sold 4 million copies and hit #1 not only on the R&B/Hip Hop chart but on the Pop chart. It topped the Billboard 200 for 2 weeks and the R&B/Hip Hop chart for 6 weeks. Hell, it even got some serious critical recognition, including from Christgau, who gave the album an A-. Now, these kids were only 14 years old. So they were working in the fairly new demographic of tween hip hop. Being a senior in high school, I think most of the people I knew thought this group was ridiculous. I mean, the pants, c’mon. “Jump” was of course the huge single and was one of the biggest hits of 1992.
But you know this was going to last long. At first, they were living it up. They opened for Michael Jackson. They were featured in a video game. Other rappers wanted them in their videos. Incidentally, the video game, called Kriss Kross: Make My Video, is notorious as one of the worst video games of all time, though you can’t blame them for this.
So it all seemed pretty good through about the end of 1993. But fame is fickle. The follow up album from 1993, Da Bomb, did well enough and went platinum. OK, no real problem, even if there was no “Jump” on there. But then it took until 1996 for Young, Rich, and Dangerous to come out and they were already closer to a nostalgia act than something people really wanted to hear new material from. The album did go gold and it had a couple of minor hits, but the run was basically over. In fact, they never released another album.
They had to live their lives now. They had training in the music business of course and Kelly did some work in that. He went to school to learn more about music engineering. But he was just a guy. The money was basically gone. He developed a pretty significant drug habit. In 2013, shortly after Kris Kross performed together in a one-off concert for the first time in years, Kelly did a speedball. And it killed him. He was 34 years old. It’ll happen.
Chris Kelly is buried in Westview Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia.
Let’s watch some Kriss Kross.
OK, that’s enough of that.
If you would like this series to visit other hip hop artists, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Scott La Rock is in The Bronx and DMX is in Yonkers, New York. Previous posts in this series are archived here and here.