I cannot describe the shock I felt after hearing about the tragic passing of Chris Kelly, one half of nineties rap duo Kriss Kross, at the age of 34. One of the most inspiring aspects of my childhood is gone forever and the world of urban music is in mourning.
Atlanta born Kelly was discovered by a teenage Jermaine Dupri at a shopping mall in 1990 along with his friend Chris Smith. Together the double act became Kriss Kross and went by the names ‘Mack Daddy’ (Kelly) and ‘Daddy Mack’ (Smith.) Dupri produced their debut album, Totally Krossed Out, which was released in 1992. It was this album which spawned their chart topping single Jump.
For a while, Krissmania spread all across the world. Everyone rapped along to Jump and copied the choreography. Boys wanted to be Mack Daddy and Daddy Mack; girls had Mack Daddy and Daddy Mack plastered all over their bedroom walls. But it is for their outlandish sense of style for which Kriss Kross are best remembered. Clothes had to be big, baggy and backwards! They are without a doubt the only guys who could make putting clothes on back-to-front look super cool!
Kriss Kross also featured in the videos of artists such as TLC and Run DMC; made cameos in various films and TV shows; starred in a video game and recorded the rap tune for Rugrats and best of all bagged themselves a spot on Michael Jackson’s Dangerous World Tour (in my opinion the best Michael Jackson CD ever!)
However, as with most of their contemporaries, their success was short-lived. Subsequent offerings did not fare as well as Totally Krossed Out, and despite making a comeback, they never experienced the same level of stardom as they did the first time around. Furthermore Jump is the only hit for which the duo are best known.
Like most of the world, my friends and I were Kriss Kross Krazy and they definitely appealed to the tomboys in us. Back in the early nineties (especially among young inner city girls) pink, cute and girly was out. Big, baggy and boyish was in and we dug the two Chris’ look. But more importantly, being of a similar age, Kriss Kross showed us that it was possible to be young and ‘live the dream’. The dream being having a fabulous career; truckloads of money in the bank; partying like a superstar and having the hottest names in music on speed dial! Oh and that hard work, dedication, determination and the will to succeed will ensure that you can achieve anything beyond your wildest dreams. In an essay for English, I wrote that I wanted to be remembered as the cute kid in a Michael Jackson video – well Chris Kelly and Chris Smith managed to do just that.
At present, despite a great deal of speculation as to why Kelly collapsed and died suddenly, nothing has been confirmed. All we do know is that a brilliant young life full of talent and promise has ended. Tributes have been flooding in from artists such as LL Cool J, Jermaine Dupris – who described Kelly as the son he never had – P Diddy and of course, Chris Smith who released a statement describing his devastation at the loss of his friend and band-mate who was ‘like a brother.’ In the midst of the sadness, we can take comfort in the memories and years of entertainment which is Kelly’s lasting legacy.
RIP Chris Kelly.