Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly, one-half of the 1990s rap duo Kris Kross, died May 1 of an apparent drug overdose. He was 34.
Kelly and his partner Chris Smith (a.k.a. “Daddy Mac”), were only 13 years old in 1991 when they were discovered by music producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri while performing at the Greenbriar Mall in their hometown of Atlanta. Dupri’s label, So So Def, signed the boys and sent them into the studio to record their first album.
As Kris Kross, the pair rocketed to stardom a year later with the release of the single “Jump.” The song spent eight weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, became an aerobics anthem and helped their debut album “Totally Krossed Out” go multiplatinum.
Soon Kris Kross was opening for pop star Michael Jackson on his Dangerous World Tour and appearing as guests on numerous TV programs. They recorded the “Rugrats Rap” for Nickelodeon and were listed at number 90 on VH1′s roundup of “The 100 Greatest Kid Stars.”
Kris Kross became a force in fashion as well; the duo was known for wearing their clothes backward during performances, and for a time many youths copied the trend. But it was the combination of their energy and mature rapping skills that earned Kris Kross a strong fan base.
Although future albums failed to match the success of “Totally Krossed Out,” Kris Kross continued to make music for several years, releasing “Da Bomb” in 1993 and “Young, Rich and Dangerous” in 1996. Kelly and Smith recently performed together in February for the So So Def 20th Anniversary All-Star Concert. Other than his talent for rapping, Kelly played the piano and dreamed of running his own record company someday.
Dupri described Kelly as a hard worker and the son he never had.
“His understanding of what we set out to do, from day one was always on point. His passion for the music, his love for doing shows, his want to [be] better than everyone else, was always turnt [sic] up,” Dupri said in a statement.
Smith said Kelly was not only his music partner, but his best friend.
“I love him and will miss him dearly,” Smith said in a statement. “Our friendship began as little boys in first grade. We grew up together. It was a blessing to achieve the success, travel the world and entertain Kris Kross fans all around the world with my best friend. It is what we wanted to do and what brought us happiness. I will always cherish the memories of the C-Connection. KRIS KROSS FOREVER, the ‘MAC DADDY’ and ‘DADDY MAC.’”
On Wednesday evening, Kelly was found unresponsive at his home. He was transported to Atlanta Medical Center and pronounced dead. According to his mother, Donna Kelly Pratte, Kelly had a history of using cocaine and heroin, and had recently returned home to recover from his addiction. A toxicology report is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.