If you grew up in the ’90s, chances are that Kris Kross was a part of your childhood. Chris Kelly, one-half of that rap duo, died in Atlanta Wednesday at the age of 34.
Kris Kross is best known for its chart-topping 1992 single “Jump.” The playful, confident lyrics introduced the duo and its unique style while etching the song into pop culture history.
Kris Kross (which also included Chris Smith) was discovered by Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer, Jermaine Dupri, who founded the So So Def record label. On Thursday morning, Dupri tweeted a “letter to fans,” in which he called Kelly “a son I never had.” He also praised Kelly as an artist, saying:
“God has blessed me to be in the presence of so many naturally talented people, and Chris was one. His understanding of what we set out to do, from day one was always on point.”
As Dupri’s protege, Kelly was part of a network of musicians that were discovered by or worked closely with Dupri . It’s a roster that includes R&B group TLC, who invited Kris Kross to appear in the video for their single “Hat 2 Da Back.” Bow Wow, who like Kelly, shot to fame as a child performed “Jump” as part of a 2010 tribute to Dupri at the 2010 Hip Hop Honors, underscoring the song’s longevity.
In a memorable scene from the 2011 film “Friends With Benefits,” Mila Kunis playfully chides co-star Justin Timberlake for liking Kris Kross. Timberlake initially denies liking them, but goes on to rap one of Kelly’s verses word for word and later admits that he “went as Kris Kross three years in a row for Halloween.” The duo was known for wearing their clothing backwards, a signature look they referenced in “Jump”‘s lyrics: “And everything is to the back with a little slack.”
Here’s how some celebrities remembered Kelly on Twitter:
— Tionne T-Boz Watkins (@TheRealTBOZ) May 2, 2013
One of my motivations as a kid to even get into the rap game. You will be missed. R.I.P. Chris Kelly instagram.com/p/YyzP2ZQazu/
— Ludacris (@Ludacris) May 2, 2013
Rest In Peace, Chris Kelly. Kris Kross lives forever. Thank you for the memories. #AtlantasOwn
— Keri Hilson (@KeriHilson) May 2, 2013