The hip-hop world has suffered another tragic loss. On Friday, NPR announced that Lovebug Starski, one of the founding fathers of the genre, died of a heart attack Thursday in Las Vegas. He was 57.
Born Kevin Smith, the Bronx DJ/rapper was one of the key figures within the 1970s hip-hop scene in NYC, along with legendary acts like Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, and Kool Herc. In fact, Starski is sometimes credited for coining the term “hip-hop”; however, the exact origins of the term are still widely debated—another man to whom the phrase is frequently attributed is the late Keith “Cowboy” Wiggins.
During a 2017 interview with Amoeba, Starksi insisted he was responsible for creating the phrase, which would go on to be popularized by the Sugar Hill Gang’s 1979 record “Rapper’s Delight.”
“Yes I am the one who coined the term ‘hip-hop’ and that was one of my rhymes when I would get stuck for words and I used to go ‘hip, hop, the hip, the hip, hip the hopping’ [laughs] you know it was just a nursery rhyme: nursery rhymes that coincided with the music and that's the God's honest truth,” he said.
Starski served as the in-house DJ for the legendary Disco Fever nightclub from the late 1970s to late 1980s. Within that time, he also released a number of singles, like “Gangster Rock,” “Dancin’ Party People,” and “Do the Right Thing,” many of which were released under his alternative moniker Little Starsky. But the rapper’s biggest hit was, undoubtedly, his 1987 record “Amityville (The House on the Hill),” which peaked at No. 12 on the U.K. charts.
After struggling with substance abuse, money problems, and legal issues, Starski was able to redirect his life and return his focus to music, performing at celebrity events as well as inking a residency deal at Las Vegas’ Vanguard Lounge.
Following news of his death, the hip-hop community went to social media to share their condolences, as well as thank to Starski for his contributions to the culture. You can check out some of the messages below.