We were shocked earlier today by the death of Christopher "Mack Daddy" Kelly, one-half of the early '90s hip-hop superstars Kris Kross, at age 34. The rapper had recently taken part in a reunion performance with Chris "Daddy Mack" Smith for the So So Def anniversary celebration.
Totally Krossed Out was the first tape that this writer had purchased with his own money back in 1992, after discovering the group in an issue of Hot Dog magazine. For many of our generation, "Jump," "Warm it Up Kris," and "I Missed the Bus" were major formative hip-hop moments. A video of this writer rapping the entirety of that last song directly into a camcorder when he was nine years old does exist, somewhere.
In a search for meaning in this tragic event, we uncovered an excellent article written by journalist David Mills about Kris Kross back in 1992 for the Washington Post. Mills was a legendary hip-hop journalist; he wrote the first major cover story on gangsta rap for The Source at the end of 1990, was responsible for the interview with Sister Souljah that became presidential campaign fodder, and conducted the controversial interview with Professor Griff where Griff expressed anti-semitic statements.
Mills went on to become a writer for television, penning episodes of Homicide: Life on the Streets, ER, The Corner, Kingpin, The Wire, Conviction, and Treme, and won multiple Emmy awards. In 2010, he passed away suddenly of a brain aneurysm at the young age of 48.
Here are some highlights from his piece on Kris Kross, published in the Washington Post on May 3, 1992, exactly 21 years ago tomorrow. Read the piece in its entirety here.
Are they tired? "No, but there's a lot of clowns out there saying we are." That's Christopher Kelly, to whom one fan referred handily as "the dark-skinned one." Sitting in a back room at Opera, Kelly seems more concerned than his lighter, slightly younger partner with affecting a hip-hop attitude, responding to an innocent question like his status was being challenged. He grips your hand with a firmness that is conscious of itself. He sometimes smirks. And when he raps over a prerecorded track of "Jump," you can hear that his voice has changed since he made the song.
"I had never seen no little kids look like me. That's what it was," Dupri says. "They had on almost better gear than me. Almost. Fresh new sneakers. I was like, 'Wait a minute. How old are these kids?'
"From the start, they had the attitude already. They came to me with that attitude -- little kids that's got themselves together. It just needed to be polished," he says. "People might say, 'Okay, Kris Kross, they cute.' But it took like two years to get these kids together. Their rapping skills went from terrible to excellent. In four years, they should be terrors."
"This one keeps punching me," [Downtown] Julie Brown says playfully, Christopher Kelly close at her side, as the video camera captures a group interview.
She asks the boys to describe their "dream girl."
Kelly says bashfully, "You."
[via Washington Post]
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