After hearing a few days ago that a member of the rap duo Kris Kros passed away I felt some sadness. Not a deep, emotional type of sadness but a regret that someone whose hit song, "Jump" deeply influenced me and those of my peers when it first came out during the year 1992. Not until later in the day when I heard his death was caused by a suspected drug overdose did my emotions begin flowing. "Oh no!!", I screamed out loud. "Not him, not him." Feeling let down my mind raced back to memories of 1992, when hip hop music was a big part of my everyday life. The setting located in Yspilanti, Michigan, the song was played constantly on campus. Everybody loved the hit. I can still see one of my friends strutting, rhythmically with the beat of the song with his arms waving and head bopping up and down, a playful prance I still cannot imitate. The song brings back memories of people I most likely will never see again.
Hip Hop at that time seemed harmless, just a bunch of young people, kids singing and dancing about fun times and the opposite sex. Compared to heavy metal and rock & roll whose band members often openly flashed signs of the devil, while promoting debauchery, hip hop seemed very innocent. Combined with certain groups like NWA and Public Enemy who often spoke up for black rights hip hop appeared entertaining and harmless. Fast forwarding through several years after first hearing amid chaos from a fellow neighbor in my college dormitory, who was racing up and down the floor announcing to everybody that Eazy E had died from "full blown AIDS', to the gangsta shootings of The Notorious BIG and Tupac, to the constant hearing of Public Enemy's Flavor Flav's run ins with the law involving his drug issues (that was a big let down) it became obvious that hip hop was far from innocent. But Kris Kros, those two little young boys who made wearing one's pants backwards popular seemed like an entirely different group of individuals. They were soooo cute. You just wanted to grab one of them give him a hug and pinch his cheeks, kind of like the Boyz, if anyone out there remembers.
But now a bit older I have unfortunately become used to hearing about bizarre, premature deaths of stars, both singers, ball players, rappers, actors, actresses alike. These are people who you grew up with and made you believe that you really knew them. They at times made you believe that they were magical, at times unstoppable. Then after hearing about another tragedy you are reminded that not only are these stars human beings like you and me, they are also living in a setting that seems to be ten times the amount of stress that an everyday human being should be able to handle. But, let me mention his name, Christopher Kelly tugs at the heart because compared to many of the now deceased famous names he was so young, talented, and along with his partner Chris "Daddy Mac" Smith appeared to be two gentlemanly kids just having a blast.
I remember more then ten years ago my brother approaching me stating that he saw the lighter skinned member Chris Smith at the mall. My brother at first expressed excitement to see him, but the Kris Kros member sensing that someone noticed who he was (this was years after the 1991 hit, "Jump") shied his face away. My brother told me that he perceived the guy realized he was recognized but did not want to be bothered. Not wanting to trouble the guy my brother left him alone. After hearing from my younger sibling his experience with this famous guy, I thought it was a little strange that the Kris Kros member cringed at receiving attention. But, I also understood that the kid likely became weary of all the attention he received from being a star.
Stardom is a difficult cross for someone to carry especially a young person, especially someone who is representing a musical style that is supposed to symbolize cool, macho, toughness at all times. Maybe that pressure of having to always be cool was too big a burden. Maybe drugs is a tool stars use to relax the heavy load of that burden. People, fellow readers, please look out for these young stars. I am tired of reading about the deaths of these young people. Obviously all those scenes and pictures we grew up watching of guys and gals dancing, smiling, frolicking, while flashing their money is not real. It's a mirage, a picture of seeming happiness. On the videos and the concert stage they seem happy, but are they really? Let's look out for these folks. If and when we ever see them in person let's resist the urge to behave like a crazy person and treat them like rock stars. Be human to them, greet them with a smile. Ask them with honest emotion how they are doing. They are human beings and they need to feel loved just like you and me.