Virgil Abloh death: Drake, Rihanna and Pharrell lead music tributes to ‘genius’ Off-White creator

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The music world is mourning the death of influential designer Virgil Abloh, aged 41.

An announcement from LVMH, the luxury goods conglomerate, revealed the Off White creator and artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear had died from cancer, the diagnosis of which he had kept private.

“Louis Vuitton and Off White are devastated to announce the passing of Virgil Abloh, on Sunday 28 November, of cancer, which he had been battling privately for several years,” the statement said.

Artists including Drake, Pharrell, AJ Tracey and Kehlani have paid tribute.

“My plan is to touch the sky 1000 more times for you… love you eternally brother. Thank you for everything,” Drake wrote in a post on Instagram, while Rihanna shared a photo of the designer from her Instagram Stories.

“My heart is broken,” musician and producer Pharrell said in a statement from his social media accounts.

“Virgil you were a kind, generous, thoughtful creative genius. Your work as a human and your work as a spiritual being will live forever. Sending love and light to your wife, children, family and day ones. You’re with the Master now, shine.”

“RIP Virgil, you did so much for all of us and showed me so much love early on,” UK artist AJ Tracey tweeted. “Thank you for everything, so sad.”

Luther star and musician Idris Elba said Abloh would be “missed from this world”.

“Rest in peace Virgil Abloh. Solid human and big inspiration,” tweeted US producer Alchemist.

“Rest in absolute peace. Shocking. Thank you Virgil,” singer Kehlani wrote.

In a statement on Instagram, Questlove wrote: “The teachable lesson here is disrupt. Provoke. Be controversial. Push buttons. Be a conversation piece…. live as a true artist.”

He continued: “No matter what your thoughts were —-about his work/life, weather you slept in line for off white…..or you snarked comments—-the true sign of an artist is all these things. Virgil Abloh was art.”

Abloh was hugely influential in the music world, particularly within hip hop, and fused music with fashion in a similar way to Gianni Versace. He was cited as an influence by rappers including Lil Uzi Vert, Drake, Offset, Jaden Smith, Big Sean, Drake, Future, Young Thug and Kanye West.

He DJ’d at house parties through college, later playing internationally including in Ibiza and Las Vegas. In 2019, he collaborated with Pioneer to create two transparent consoles, which were displayed at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.

He worked with a number of major artists, helping to create some of the most distinctive cover art in recent years, including Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, A$AP Rocky’s Long Live A$AP, West’s Yeezus, and Westside Gunn’s Pray for Paris.

Virgil Abloh (right) with Kanye West at Paris Fashion Week 2019 (Getty Images)
Virgil Abloh (right) with Kanye West at Paris Fashion Week 2019 (Getty Images)

In 2020, he designed the original artwork for late rapper Pop Smoke’s posthumously released album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon. However, the artwork came under criticism from fans, and a new design by Ryder Ripps was revealed a month later.

The official account for streaming service Tidal said its staff were heartbroken over “the monumental loss” of a “creative genius, visionary and icon”.

“RIP Virgil Abloh he was so inspiring and added so much to the art / fashion / music world. We’ll miss him so much,” said electronic group Louis the Child.

A statement from Abloh’s official Instagram page said: “We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend.”

“For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture.”

The statement said that throughout his illness, Abloh’s “work ethic, infinite curiosity and optimism” never wavered. It said he was driven by “his dedication to his craft... his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design”.

“He often said, ‘Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,’ believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations. We thank you all for your love and support, and we ask for privacy as we grieve and celebrate Virgil’s life,” representatives said.

Abloh is survived by his wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, and his parents, Nee and Eunice Abloh.

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