Chris Kelly, half of the kid hip-hop duo Kris Kross, died Wednesday night of an apparent drug overdose at the age of 34. While most of us will remember him as "Mac Daddy," one of the backward-clothes-wearing kids that rapped the monster hit "Jump," here are five things you may not have known about him and Kris Kross.
1. They were discovered in a shopping mall. Kelly and Kris Kross partner Chris Smith were discovered in a shopping mall by producer Jermaine Dupri, who was just 18 the time. Kelly and Smith were 12 and 13, respectively. "Me and Chris were just hanging out at the mall and Jermaine asked us if we rapped and danced," Chris Smith once told me.
2. They never wanted to be a pop act. Although the duo had a monster hit with "Jump," which hit number one on Billboard's Hot 100 and stayed there for eight weeks, they never wanted to be a pop act. Instead they wanted to be legit and even hardcore rappers, like their heroes in Run-DMC and N.W.A. The album track "Lil' Boys in da Hood" was inspired by the 1987 Eazy-E classic "Boyz-n-the-Hood," and the similarly named 1991 movie starring Ice Cube. "Our first album was nowhere near pop," Kelly once told me. "It just crossed over, and everybody said it was pop. But we didn't go into the studio and say we wanted to make a pop record."
3. They tested out their backwards-clothes look before unleashing it on the public at large. Before Smith and Kelly went forward with their backwards fashion fad, they tested it out in the place they were discovered: a shopping mall. "People in the mall were flipping out," Dupri once told me. "Like, 'They got their clothes on backwards.' We were like, 'Yeah, that's it right there. We've got something to catch people's eyes.'"
4. They knocked Def Leppard and the Black Crowes from the top of the album chart. Although "Jump" was the only top 10 hit from their debut album, it was so popular it pushed Totally Krossed Out to the top of the Billboard album chart, not once, but twice. First it ended the five-week reign of Def Leppard's Adrenalize. But after one week, Totally Krossed Out was knocked out of the top spot by the Black Crowes' sophomore album, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. A week later, Kris Kross were back at number one for a second week, but they ultimately gave up the top spot to Some Gave All by Billy Ray Cyrus, better known today as Miley Cyrus's dad.
5. Kelly had other career plans. He went to school to become a sound engineer. "I just wanted to do something different," he recently told Hip-Hop Media Training's Billy Johnson Jr. "Get more on the technical side of things than just being an artist, and produce. I just wanted to be [the] all around best I could be as far as doing everything."