Wave of tragedy devastates the hip-hop community
By Davey D
The hip-hop community has been hit with devastating losses over the past few months.
May 19 2006: Fans around the world were saddened when producer J-Dilla of Detroit's Slum Village suddenly took a turn for the worse and died in February of complications from lupus. His death was especially painful because it occurred just days before his critically acclaimed album ``Donuts'' came out. The previous week, an album-release party was held in Los Angeles, where numerous artists for whom Dilla had made beats, including De La Soul, were on hand.
The sudden death in March of Professor X (Lumumba Carson), leader of the Afrocentric political rap group X-Clan, sent shock waves throughout the community. His death was especially hard to accept because many had seen him at a media reform demonstration just three days earlier, where he had spoken about his determination to step up his activism and resurrect the Blackwatch organization founded by his father, Sonny Carson.
In addition, the members of X-Clan had patched up differences that had kept them apart for more than 10 years. They were set for a surprise reunion. The week Professor X died, he was supposed to visit California to shoot a video with group members Brother J and Paradise. This coast, particularly the Bay Area, had special meaning for the group because it was the first to embrace and champion the music of X-Clan, originally based in Brooklyn.
The fact that Professor X died of spinal meningitis made headlines in New York. The Professor X case underscored the music industry's dirty little secret: Despite the billions of dollars the industry generates annually, most musicians do not have health insurance.
Weeks after these deaths, the hip-hop community was shocked to hear about the shooting death of Eminem's best friend, Proof, leader of the group D-12. The charismatic Proof (who played the man who gave Eminem his start in the movie ``8 Mile'') had announced that he was working with other artists on a tribute album for Detroit's J-Dilla. Sadly, people are now doing a tribute album for Proof.
Over the past two weeks, California has lost three hip-hop legends, two of them on the same day. One was DJ Dusk, who spun frequently at Bay Area functions. Dusk was also a political activist in the area of education. He died two weeks ago, when he was hit by a drunken driver in Southern California as he walked a girlfriend to her car. According to witnesses, Dusk pushed the woman out of the way but was struck himself and dragged 80 yards. His selfless act speaks volumes about the kind of man he was.
His death was widely mourned in tributes around the country. He was so well loved that hip-hop pioneers Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Herc and Jazzy Jay made rare joint appearances in New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area, where Dusk had his biggest followings. They visited San Francisco last weekend to do a tribute and raise money for Dusk's family.
On the day that DJ Dusk was killed, Michael ``Mixin' '' Moore, a pioneer in hip-hop radio in L.A., died at age 46 from heart failure. Best known for his Militant Mix, fusing speeches and news clips over popular instrumentals, he also is credited with inventing the 5 o'clock Traffic Jam, a mainstay on commercial radio around the country.
While the hip-hop icons were paying tribute to DJ Dusk last weekend, rap legend Skeeter Rabbit of the pioneering dance group the Electric Boogaloos died. He was an innovator in ``strutting'' and ``popping'' and was no stranger to the Bay Area, where he participated in numerous competitions.
On Saturday may 20th there will be two seperate tributes and funerals for Skeeter Rabbit and Michael Mixxing Moore
With all the deaths, many in the hip-hop community have taken time to reflect. Since no one is promised tomorrow, we must learn to appreciate what we have today. Digital Underground's ``Heartbeat Props,'' which encourages us to honor the living, rings especially true these days.