30 R&B And Hip-Hop Stars Who Passed Away: Heavy-D, Tony Thompson, And More

Written by Ann Brown
1 of 30

Over the years we have lost many in the world of music. Here are 30 R&B and hip-hop performers who have passed away.


Heavy D, aka Dwight Arrington Myers, performs during the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta,
on Oct. 1, 2011. AP Photo/David Goldman, file

Dwight Arrington Myers, better known as Heavy D, was a Jamaican-American hip-hop artist, record producer, singer and actor. He was the leader of Heavy D & the Boyz, a hip hop group that had a large audience in the U.S. through most of the ’90s. They produced five albums.

Heavy D’s final live performance was at the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards in 2011. He died of a pulmonary embolismon on Nov. 8, 2011, in Los Angeles, California outside his home in Beverly Hills.

MC Hammer paid tribute to Heavy D on Twitter: “We had a lot of great times touring together. He had a heart of gold. He was a part of what’s good about the world.”


Notorious B.I.G., who won rap artist and rap single of the year, holds his awards at the podium during the Billboard Music Awards in New York, Dec. 6, 1995. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Christopher George Latore Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, or Biggie, is considered one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time.

He was born and raised in the Brooklyn, and his debut album “Ready to Die” (1994) raised the profile of East Coast hip hop at a time when West Coast hip hop dominated the mainstream. Biggie was featured in five album releases — four after his death — and sold a total of 13.4 million albums in the U.S.

In 1997, Biggie said during a radio interview that he was worried about his safety and had hired a security guard. He was shot and killed on March 7, 1997. He was 24.

His best-selling album, “Life After Death,” was released 16 days after his death. Three more albums featuring Biggie were released.

Blaque’s Natina Reed

Singer and actress Natina Reed died in October 2012 after being struck by a vehicle while crossing the street in Atlanta. The 32-year-old former member of the late-’90s group Blaque died at the scene and the driver of the vehicle “was determined to be not at fault and there are no charges pending.”

“Known for her work in the late-’90s girl group Blaque, which scored a pair of top 10 hits in 1999 with ‘808’ and ‘Bring It All to Me,’ Reed also starred in the 2000 Kirsten Dunst cheerleader comedy ‘Bring It On’,” The Hollywood Reporter reported.

In a statement, Reed’s Blaque bandmates Brandi Williams and Shamari Fears-DeVoe said: Natina was a mother, sister, accomplished songwriter, artist and friend…She will forever be missed and her global influence eternally felt. We thank God for the experiences we shared.”

Reed had a son with hip-hop artist Kurupt.

Master of R&B Romance James Ingram

passed away
***FILE PHOTO*** James Ingram has passed Away At Age 66 Of Brain Cancer James Ingram and Phoebe Snow attending the Urban Contemporary Awards on January 21, 1983 at the Savoy in New York City. Credit: Walter McBride/MediaPunch /IPX

James Ingram won two Grammy Awards and captured the hearts of many with his romantic R&B songs that included “Just Once” and “I Don’t Have the Heart.” His death on January 29, 2019 shocked many. He was 66 years old.

“Ingram’s rich voice and masterful songwriting has made a lasting impact on the music industry,” Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said in a statement to USA Today.

Ingram had a career that spanned some four decades ago, during which time he collaborated with the likes of Quincy Jones, Anita Baker, Michael McDonald, and Ray Charles. And with Jones, he co-wrote Michael Jackson’s hit “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).”

Ingram took home the Grammy Award for best male R&B vocal performance for “One Hundred Ways.” He also had a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983 for his duet with Patti Austin on “Baby, Come to Me,” and again with his love ballad “I Don’t Have the Heart” in 1990.

Hi-Five’s Tony Thompson

10 Years Ago, Hi-Five’s lead singer Tony Thompson passed away (June 1, 2007) #10Years #RIPTonyThompson #HiFive #90s pic.twitter.com/YH8bNTyQcm— Curtisia Green (@curtisia_green) June 1, 2017

Tony Thompson was just 31 when he died in June 2007. Initially, it was thought to be of an apparent drug overdose. However, Thompson, whose body was discovered by security officers near an air-conditioning unit outside of an apartment complex in his native Waco, Texas, died from “toxic effects of chlorodifluoromethane,” or inhaling a toxic amount of freon, an atoposy later revealed.

Thompson sang with ’90s R&B group Hi-Five, which signed to Jive Records in 1990. “The group’s self-titled debut album went multi-platinum and spawned the hits ‘I Can’t Wait Another Minute’ and ‘I Like the Way (The Kissing Game),/ the latter of which topped the Billboard Hot 100,” BillBoard reported.

The group’s 1992 release “Keep It Goin’ On” spawned the hits “She’s Playing Hard To Get” and “Quality Time.”

Later, went solo and released “Sexsational.” in 1995 after Hi-Five split The group went on to reunite in 2006 and released “The Return” on Thomposn’s own N’Depth label.

Melvin Edmonds of After

Earlier this month, Melvin Edmonds, older brother of legendary hitmaker Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and a founding member of the R&B group After 7, died. He was 65.

Edmonds’ death was announced by the group on Facebook, and confirmed to the Indianapolis Star by his son Melvin.

Back in 2011 Edmonds suffered a stroke, according to CNN, and although he had been in poor health he was on the mend in recent years. He even rejoined the group in 2016 for its comeback album, “Timeless.

Growing up in Indianapolis, Melvin Edmonds was the second-oldest of six sons: Marvin Jr., Melvin, Michael, (After 7 bandmate) Kevon, Kenny “Babyface,” and Derek.

“Melvin Edmonds, along with brother Kevon and friend Keith Mitchell founded the group, whose self-titled 1988 debut album went platinum. They rose to fame during the 1990s with hits like ‘Can’t Stop,’ ‘Ready or Not,’ and ‘Heat of the Moment’,” The Root reported.

Sean Levert

passed away
Members of LeVert, Marc Gordon (left), Sean LeVert (front) and Gerald LeVert were double winners at the second annual Soul Train Music Awards March 30, 1988 in Santa Monica, Calif. LeVert took home the award for best single, group or band for their song, “Casanova” and won in the category album of the year for “The Big Throwdown.” (AP Photo/Bob Galbraith)

Singer Sean Levert hailed from a family of family singers, yet his death was anything but glamours. Levert, a third of the highly successful 1980s R&B trio LeVert and son of lead O’Jays singer Eddie Levert, died in 2008 after falling ill while serving a jail term in Cleveland. He was just 39.

No foul play was found.

Levert had been sentenced to one year and 10 months in jail for failing to pay $89,025 in child support.

“Levert was sentenced by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Nancy Margaret Russo, who said a presentence report indicated he had been addicted to marijuana from the time he was 14 until recently. He didn’t speak at his sentencing and gave no indication of any health problems,” USA Today reported.

Two years prior to Sean’s death, his brother Gerald Levert died in 2006 at age 40 of an accidental mix of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Gerald and Sean had formed LeVert in the 1980s with childhood friend Marc Gordon. Their hits included “Baby I’m Ready,” “(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind” and “Casanova,” which was nominated for a Grammy in 1988 for best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocal. It was also nominated for best R&B song.

In 2010, Sean’s widow of singer Sean Levert settled her lawsuit against the county and the company that oversees medical care in the jail where Sean was housed at the time of his falling ill. The settlement was for $4 million.

“The settlement was one of the largest of its kind in Ohio history. It contains no official admission of liability, ‘but it’s clear everybody agrees that this was a tragedy and it needed to be resolved,’ said David Malik, lead attorney for Levert’s widow, Angela Lowe,” Cleveland.com reported.

It was found that Sean was denied medication, hallucinated for hours before he died.

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul

passed away
Flowers and pictures are placed on Aretha Franklin’s star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Los Angeles. Franklin, the glorious “Queen of Soul” and genius of American song, died Thursday morning at her home in Detroit of pancreatic cancer. She was 76. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The world of music lost one of its greats in 2018 when Aretha Franklin died at the age of 76 in Detroit, surrounded by family and friends.

According to a statement released by the family, the “official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.”

Her music and spirit touched many. “Aretha helped define the American experience,” former President Barack Obama said in a statement. “In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade — our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.”

A year before her death, Franklin announced she would stop touring, but she continued to book concerts. Her final public performance was November 2017 when she sang at an Elton John AIDS Foundation gala in New York.

Franklin’s hits were endless and spanned the decades. “She made ‘Respect,’ written by Otis Redding, a call to arms. ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,’ a Carole King song, was an earthy expression of sexuality. ‘Think,’ which she wrote with her then-husband, Ted White, became a rallying cry for women fed up with loutish men,” CNN reported.

Franklin was the first woman admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she had 88 Billboard chart hits during the rock era. She won 18 Grammy awards, including the honor for best female R&B performance for eight straight years.

Natalie Cole

passed away
LAS VEGAS, NV – November 21 : Natalie Cole pictured at 2013 Latin Grammy Awards at Mandalay Bay on November 21, 2013 in Las Vegas, NV. Credit: Kabik/Starlitepics/MediaPunch Inc./IPX

The daughter of the legendary singer Nat King Cole, and a successful singer in her own right, Natalie Cole’s death came as a surprise to many. She died in 2015 from heart failure brought on by a rare lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH). After undergoing a kidney transplant in 2009, Cole was first diagnosed with IPAH. She was 65.

“IPAH occurs when extra tissue forms around the pulmonary arteries, making it difficult for blood to flow and forcing blood pressure to rise. This often results in shortness of breath, dizziness and chest pain…Cole also battled Hepatitis C, which the singer admitted was the result of prolonged drug use decades earlier,” The Rolling Stone reported.

Cole has a string of hits. Her first was  “This Will Be” in 1975, A year later, Cole had her second top 10, the No. 5-peaking “I’ve Got Love on My Mind.” The No. 10-peaking “Our Love” would follow in 1978.

“Cole would stage a Hot 100 renaissance in the late ’80s, led by 1988’s Bruce Springsteen cover ‘Pink Cadillac,’ which tied for her highest-charting hit (No. 5). She’d score her fifth and final Hot 100 top 10 in 1989, ‘Miss You Like Crazy’ (No. 7). Still, the ’90s brought more chart honors. In 1990, Cole’s ‘Pretty Woman’ soundtrack song ‘Wild Women Do’ climbed to No. 34 and, in 1991, ‘Unforgettable,’ her virtual duet (a technological marvel at the time) with her late father, jazz icon Nat King Cole, rose to No. 14,” Billboard reported.   

Lost Boyz’s Freaky Tah

March 28, 1999, Lost Boyz rapper Freaky Tah was murdered as a result of being were affiliated with a “wannabe” rap group called the Hellraisers. Besides Freaky Tah two others also died due to the apparent feud between the two groups.

“The feud that resulted in the death of Freaky Tah (born Raymond Rogers) can be traced back at least to…when a member of the Lost Boyz was robbed, the source said. The source declined to identify which member was the victim, but said it was not Freaky Tah. He also said it ‘was not the first time members of the group had been robbed’,” MTV News reported.

Queens County District Attorney Judge Richard A. Brown called Freaky Tah’s murder “the senseless killing of an accomplished entertainer” and praised police for their work in solving the case.

A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg

passed away
FILE – In this Nov. 12, 2015 file photo, Malik Isaac Taylor, aka Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, poses for a portrait at Sirius XM studios in New York. Phife Dawg, a masterful lyricist whose witty wordplay was a linchpin of the groundbreaking hip-hop group died Tuesday, March 22, 2016 from complications resulting from diabetes. He was 45. (Photo by Brian Ach/Invision/AP, FIle)

When A Tribe Called Quest launched onto the scene, they forever changed the rap game.  And member Malik Taylor, the rapper known as Phife Dawg, was known for his clever rhymes. He died in 2016 at the young age of 45 due to complications resulting from diabetes.

Taylor, who had a kidney transplant in 2008, battled  diabetes most of his life.

“Taylor appeared on all five of the group’s studio albums, most notably 1991’s ‘The Low End Theory’ and 1993’s ‘Midnight Marauders,’ acting as the high-pitched, gruff vocal counterpoint to Q-Tip’s smooth, mellow flow. The group broke up and reunited multiple times since the release of their last album, 1998’s ‘the Love Movement. As documented in ‘Beats, Rhymes & Life,’ the group would sporadically reunite for live shows, but stopped short at recording new material,” Rolling Stone reported.

Taylor hailed from the Jamaica area of Queens, NY, and it was there he meet his future groupmate at the age of 2.

At the age of 19, Taylor contributed verses to four songs on A Tribe Called Quest’s 1990 debut album ‘People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,’ including an iconic verse on the group’s third single, ‘Can I Kick It?,” Rolling Stone reported.

But it was 1991’s “Low End Theory” that caught the industry’s major attention. “‘Low End Theory’‘s landmark fusion of hip-hop and jazz remains a benchmark for the genre, influencing countless rappers and producers and providing the blueprint for a strain of rap as indebted to Grover Washington, Jr. and Ron Carter as James Brown,” Rolling Stone reported.

The album was listed on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Nate Dogg

Nate Dogg
213’s Snoop Dogg, left, Warren G and Nate Dogg pose for photographs during arrivals to the BET Comedy Awards at the Pasadena Civic Center in Pasadena, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2004. ( AP Photo/Ann Johansson)

In 2011 Nate Dogg, 41, passed away suddenly of complications from multiple strokes, according to his attorney Mark Geragos. Prior to this, in 2007 he had suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and then had another the following year.

The four-time Grammy nominee rose to fame in the 1990s with the Warren G track “Regulate.” The hip hop community took to Twitter to pay tribute.

Snoop Dogg (who first collaborated with Nate in the early ‘90s in the rap group 213 ), tweeted: “I am so sad but so happy I got to grow up wit u and I will c u again n heaven cuz u know d slogan.”

Mobb Deep‘s Prodigy

FILE – In this Oct. 13, 2016 file photo, Mobb Deep’s Prodigy poses for a photo in New York. Albert Johnson, the skilled rapper and member of the New York hip-hop duo has died. He was 42. The rapper’s publicist said in a statement Tuesday, June 20, 2017, that Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Las Vegas “for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis.” He has battled sickle cell since birth and was in Las Vegas for a performance. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

While being treated for sickle cell anemia in hospital, one half of the famous rap duo Mobb Deep Prodigy died from choking on an egg.

The rapper (born as Albert Johnson) was on tour in Las Vegas alongside Ghostface Killah, Onyx, KRS-One, and Ice-T, when the incident occurred on June 20, 2017. He was 42.

“Sickle cell anemia is a condition in which red blood cells contort into a sickle shape and die early, leaving a shortage of healthy red blood cells that can lead to a painful blockage of blood flow,” The Independent reported.

“As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth,” a statement from Prodigy’s publicist, released following his death, said.

Lisa Lopes, Rapper of TLC

Lisa Lopes
FILE — The band TLC, from left, Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, poses for photographers at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in this September 7, 1995 file photo. TLC’s “Waterfalls,” a slinky R&B ballad that includes a subtle AIDS message, was nominated for Grammy awards as record of the year and best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals Thursday, Jan. 4, 1996. (AP Photo/File, Adam Nadel)

The death of TLC member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes shook many. The 30-year-old musician/rapper/songwriter died at the age of 30 in a car crash while visiting Honduras.

“The accident occurred in Roma, a popular vacation spot on the Caribbean coast. Lopes, who was 30 and lived in Atlanta, had a condominium near a Honduran village where African healing was practiced, Marose said. He said Lopes was at the wheel of a rented Mitsubishi sport utility vehicle and lost control. The police said it veered off the road and turned over several times,” The New York Times reported.

Lopes died at the scene.In all, there were seven passengers in the car, including Lopes’s sister, Raina, and brother, Ronald; three members of a rhythm-and-blues group, Egypt; and two video producers. The producers were filming a documentary about  Lopes’s ”spiritual journey.”

TLC was signed LaFace Records in the 1990s. The group refined the “girl group for the hip-hop era.”

“With a black stripe under her left eye and a reputation for volatility, Lopes was the catalyst and onstage focus for TLC. When the group titled its second album ‘’Crazysexycool’ in 1994, Ms. Lopes named herself ‘crazy.’’ That was the year she burned down the $1.3 million house belonging to her boyfriend, the football player Andre Rison. She pleaded guilty to first-degree arson and was sentenced to five years’ probation and fined $10,000. She also entered an alcohol rehabilitation program,” the NYT reported.

TLC became one of the best-selling female groups of all time, selling more than 21 million albums in the United States, with hits including ”Waterfalls” and ”Creep,” which alone sold 11 million copies.

R&B Crooner Luther Vandross

Luther Vandross
Luther Vandross At The 2001 B.E.T. Awards At The Paris Hotel In Las Vegas, Nevada.. Credit: 2987420Globe Photos/MediaPunch /IPX

“Luther Vandross had a peaceful passing under the watchful eye of friends, family and the medical support team,” said a spokesperson at JFK Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey, said on July 1, 2005.

Grammy-winning soul singer and songwriter had actually been set to relaunch his career after recovering from a serious stroke two years prior.

Vandross also had long battled diabetes and fluctuations in his weight.

“Vandross was considered the premier soul balladeer of his generation, with a silky voice that seduced millions of fans and won over collaborators such as David Bowie and Aretha Franklin,” Billboard reported.

“Dance With My Father” was his final album and released shortly after his April 2003 stroke. It debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and earned four Grammys, including song of the year for the title track.

During Vandross’s multifaceted career, he sold more than 20 million albums worldwide. His first as a solo recording artist was 1981’s “Never Too Much,” and it spawned a series of hits to follow.

Harlem Rapper Big L


It was a shocking a violent death. “On February 15, 1999 the Hip Hop legend was murdered at 45 West 139th Street in Harlem after being shot nine times in the face and chest in a drive-by shooting,” Genius reported.

According to reports, the shooting was said to have been retaliation for something Big L’s brother did but to this day the murder case remains unsolved.

Big L launched his career with the group Three the Hard Way, but by1995 he was on his own and released his debut album, “Lifestylez of da Poor & Dangerous.” In 1998 he founded Flamboyant Entertainment, his own indie label, through which he released one of his most popular songs, “Ebonics.”

His second studio album, “The Big Picture,” was released the year after his death and went certified gold.

Rapper Big Pun    

Big Pun
A mural in memory of rapper Big Pun is seen in the Bronx borough of New York, Aug. 23, 2003. The mural is one of the sights along the Bronx Soundwalk, an audio tour of the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

Platinum-selling Puerto Rican rapper Big Punisher, who appeared on Jennifer Lopez’ “Feelin’ So Good” single, in 2000 at the age of 28.

The 600-pound rapper suffered a massive heart attack at a New York hotel.

“Big Punisher (born Christopher Rios) was instantly recognizable by his massive size, which became his trademark when he broke onto the hip-hop scene in the late ’90s. The Bronx native was best known for his smash single, ‘Don’t Wanna Be A Player,’ featured on his 1998 platinum debut album, ‘Capitol Punishment’,” Rolling Stone reported.

Big Pun was the first Latino rapper to go platinum, surpassing his mentor, Fat Joe, in record sales.

Gerald Levert

Gerald LeVert
LeVert, the rhythm and blues pop trio, seen here May 15, 1989, of Marc Gordon right, and brothers, from left, Gerald LeVert and Sean LeVert has just released its third album, “Just Coolin”. (AP Photo/Dave A. Cantor)

The brother of Sean, Gerald Edward Levert died November 10, 2006, of an accidental drug overdose. Before going solo, Gerald and his brother and friend Marc Gordon saw major success with the group LeVert. Levert was also a member of LSG, a supergroup comprising Keith Sweat, Johnny Gill, and himself.

Levert is the son of Eddie Levert, who is the lead singer of the famed R&B/soul vocal group The O’Jays.

“In 1991, Levert went solo with the albums, ‘Private Line,’ which went to number one on the R&B charts. The following year, Gerald and his father, Eddie Levert, hit number one on the R&B charts with the single, ‘Baby Hold On to Me.” Levert recorded a string of albums throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, that contained the hit singles, “Thinkin’ About It” (Pop #12) which was released on September 1, 1998, “Taking Everything” (Pop #11), “Funny”, “Mr. Too Damn Good to You”, “U Got That Love”, and a remake of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”, along with gospel singer Yolanda Adams,” Wikipedia reported.

Levert was also a successful songwriter, having written hits for Patti LaBelle, Barry White, Stephanie Mills, Anita Baker, Eugene Wilde, Teddy Pendergrass, James Ingram, Freddie Jackson, Chuckii Booker, The Rude Boys, Men at Large, and 1 of the Girls.

Gerald Levert was found dead in his bed at his Cleveland, Ohio home when his cousin tried to wake him. He died of a fatal combination of prescription narcotics and over-the-counter drugs. The drugs in his bloodstream included the narcotic pain relievers Vicodin, Percocet, and Darvocet, along with anxiety medication Xanax and two over-the-counter antihistamines. And, according to the autopsy Levert had pneumonia.

Marvin Gaye, the Prince of Motown

FILE – In this Jan. 17, 1983, file photo, singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye, winner of Favorite Soul/R&B Single, “Sexual Healing,” attends the American Music Awards in Los Angeles. Clothing, including a knit cap and military-style jacket and pants, worn by Gaye will go on display at the Motown Museum in Detroit as part of the music label’s 60th anniversary celebration. Pictures of the items will be posted on Facebook Friday and displayed at the museum beginning Saturday through the end of April. (AP Photo/Doug Pizac, File)

The news of the death of soul and R&B music legend Marvin Gaye in 1984 was shocking of many reasons, but mostly it was because he was shot and killed by his own father.

Signed to the iconic Motown records, Gaye had hit after hit — “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” among them. After leaving the label, Gaye’s fame continued to grow and his career spanned nearly 25 year. It came to an end shortly before his 45th birthday.

Gaye’s family relationships were complicated, and made even more so by Gaye’s own drug use. At the time of his death, he was staying with his father Marvin Gay, Sr., (the “e” was added by Marvin for his stage name). The elder Marvin was a preacher in the Hebrew Pentecostal Church and was known to have been a strict and abusive parent.

“He was also, by all accounts, a hard-drinking cross-dresser who personally embodied a rather complicated model of morality. By some reports, Marvin Sr. harbored significant envy over his son’s tremendous success, and Marvin Jr. clearly harbored unresolved feelings toward his abusive father,” the History Channel reported.

The singer had moved into his parents’ home in late 1983 at “a low point in his struggle with depression, debt and cocaine abuse.” This was just one year after he won his first Grammy and had a triumphant return to the pop charts with the song “Sexual Healing.”

An argument between father and son turned into a physical fight and while the singer’s mother, Alberta Gay, was trying to calm her son in his bedroom Marvin Sr. took a revolver and shot him three times in his chest.

Hip Hop Artist Scott La Rock

Scott La Rock Sterling  was just about to blow up nationally with his music and partner KRS-1 with their Boogie Down Productions, when he was murdered on August 31, 1987 at the age of 25.

The duo was on the verge of signing a major recording contract with Warner Brothers Records.

“Their first album – a collection of rhythmic rap tunes on a smaller label, B-Boy Records – was about to hit the record charts and he had kept a promise he had made to himself: He, a young man from the South Bronx who had become a high school basketball star and had earned a bachelor’s degree in business, would settle for nothing less than stardom,” The New York Times reported.

Sterling fatally shot in the South Bronx when at least one gunman fired from an apartment window across the street at a jeep in which Sterling and four friends were sitting. According to the police, Sterling was caught up in a dispute but had not been singled out as a target.

Hip-Hop Artist/DJ/Producer J Dilla


The Hip Hop world mourned the loss of J Dilla, a founding member of hip-hop act Slum Village, when he died  Feb. 10, 2006, in Los Angeles. After succumbing to complications from lupus. The Detroit-hailing rapper was 32.

“Before his passing, J Dilla (born James Yancey and also known as Jay Dee) had been working on ‘The Shining,’ the follow-up to his 2001 solo debut, ‘Welcome to Detroit,’” Billboard reported.

J Dilla has worked closely with such artists as A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip, Common and the Pharcyde.

The King of Pop, Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson 1984 Credit: 126352Globe Photos/MediaPunch /IPX

The world mourned when the death of Michael Jackson was announced on June 25, 2009. Jackson died in his Los Angeles home. The Los Angeles County Coroner classified Jackson’s death was a homicide. According to the Coroner, Jackson died from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol. His doctor, Conrad Robert Murray, was convicted for involuntary manslaughter and served two years of a four-year prison sentence.

Now, 10 years after his death, the “Killing of Michael Jackson” documentary is about to come to TV.

“Just a few months after ‘Leaving Neverland, HBO’s explosive documentary about child-molestation accusations against Michael Jackson, Discovery is picking up a Jackson doc of its own,” Vanity Reporter reported. “Killing Michael Jackson” will revolve around Jackson’s death, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The new doc will also feature three detectives who worked on the case.

Matt Graff, managing director of distributor Zig Zag Productions, told the Hollywood Reporter,  “This film focuses on the intriguing circumstances surrounding Michael Jackson’s death, giving audiences a fascinating insight into the final moments of the pop star’s life and the criminal process that lead to the arrest and conviction of Dr. Conrad Murray.”

The film will also air in Italy, Germany, the Nordics, Poland, New Zealand, and Belgium. It does not yet have a release date.


Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson) ‘The Artist Formerly Known as Prince’, ‘TAFKAP’ Hop Farm Festival, Paddock Wood, Kent, England 3rd July 2011 performing live on stage in concert gig singing playing CAPmar/MediaPunch/IPX

Prince’s sudden death took many by surprise. The musician died from “exceedingly high” amount of fentanyl, experts say. The opioid painkiller, which the singer used to deal with hip pain, was found his home.

Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. Public data released six weeks after his death showed he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin,” USA Today reported.

“The amount in his blood is exceedingly high, even for somebody who is a chronic pain patient on fentanyl patches,” said Dr. Lewis Nelson, chairman of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. He called the fentanyl concentrations “a pretty clear smoking gun.”

Whitney Houston

WHITNEY HOUSTON. 1990. Credit: 1252386_Globe Photos/MediaPunch /IPX

It seemed like Whitney Houston was readying for a comeback when she was found dead in 2012 at the age of 48. The legendary pop singer was found dead at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

During her stellar career, Houston sold more than 170 million albums, singles and videos. But her path to fame was also paved with continuous addiction problems.

Houston, whose hits included ‘The Greatest Love of All,’ died on the eve of the 54th annual Grammy Awards and she had just performed at a pre-show event.

She had also recently made the movie set for “Sparkle,” a remake of the 1976 hit.“Houston’s body of work included a string of Billboard No. 1 hits in the 1980s, including ‘Saving All My Love for You,’ ‘How Will I Know,’ ‘The Greatest Love of All,’ ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go,’ and ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).’ Billboard put her soundtrack to the 1992 movie ‘The Bodyguard’ as one of the top 10 biggest-selling albums of all time. She also starred in the film with Kevin Costner,” CNN reported.

Rapper Mac Dre


Rapper Mac Dre based in San Francisco was killed in Kansas City on

Nov. 2, 2004. According to the police, the underground rap star was also a member of a gang of robbers. Dre (Andre Hicks), 34, was killed when a gunman shot into a van in which he was riding. Another vehicle pulled up beside the driver’s side of the van he was in and began shooting.

Prior to his murder, De had performed at a concert in Kansas City, Kan.

Police never determined a motive.

“Hicks has recorded more than a dozen albums since 1989. In the early 1990s, police began investigating Hicks and several associates thought to be members of the Vallejo, Calif.’s Romper Room Gang, which was suspected in a string of bank and business robberies. Hicks was eventually charged in federal court with conspiracy to commit bank robbery after he and several others were arrested while preparing to rob a bank,” Billboard reported.


FILE – This May 9, 2001 file photo shows R&B singer and actress Aaliyah posing for a photo in New York. Recording artist Drake, a huge Aaliyah fan, has announced that he is working on a posthumous album of Aaliyah music, and he’s already released the song “Enough Said” featuring himself and the singer, who was killed in a plane crash in 2001. (AP Photo/Jim Cooper, file)

Singer Aaliyah had traveled to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas to film a music video for her new single “Rock the Boat.” On her return home on August 25, 2001, the singer died in plane crash. Many in her circle said she had voiced concern over the safety of the plane before boarding.

Aaliyah had finished shooting her part of the video a day earlier than expected and on the evening of August 25, she boarded a twin-engine Cessna 402-B along with several other colleagues. Almost immediately upon takeoff from Marsh Harbor, the plane crashed near the runway and a fire erupted. Aaliyah, then 22, along with eight others, perished. In 2003, a pathologist testified at a Nassau coroner’s inquest that she was killed from severe burns and head trauma, with the singer going into such a state of shock that recovery would have been ultimately unthinkable,” Biography reported.

It was later found that the pilot was not authorized to fly the plane, which was believed to be significantly overloaded. Traces of cocaine and alcohol were found within the pilot’s system upon completion of an autopsy.

Rapper Proof

rapper proof
** FILE ** Proof, a member of rap group D12 and a close friend of Eminem, shown March 13, 2003, in Detroit, was shot to death early Tuesday, April 11, 2006, at a nightclub along Eight Mile Road, a publicist said. The death of Proof _ whose real name is Deshaun Holton _ was confirmed by Dennis Dennehy, the publicist for D12’s label, Interscope Records. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DeShaun Dupree Holton, aka P, Big Proof, Proof or Derty Harry died at April 11, 2006 at the age of 32. Proof was one of rapper Eminem’s closest films.

On the night of proof’s death, he had been at a local club in the famed but sketchy stretch of East 8 Mile road in Detroit. “He found himself in an argument with Keith Bender Jr, a 35-year-old Desert Storm veteran, allegedly during a game of pool. An altercation ensued, attracting the attention of the club’s bouncer, Mario Etheridge, who is Bender’s cousin. Within a few minutes, both Bender and Proof were fatally shot: a bullet to Bender’s face took his life eight days later (the same morning that Proof was buried), while Proof was killed instantly by two shots to his back and one to the back of his head,” The Guardian reported.

There were several stories that surfaced about the sequence of events. At first, the police reported that Proof brandished a gun that was licensed to him

Proof was a founding member of the million-earning Shady family, buoyed by the success of Eminem’

Proof was known to use his fame to work for local musicians’ benefits.

Eminem declared at Proof’s funeral, “Without Proof, there would be a Marshall Mathers, but there would not be an Eminem, there would not be a D12 and there would not be a Slim Shady.”

Rapper Nipsey Hussle

nipsey hussle
East Rutherford, NJ – June 1, 2014 Nipsey Hussle attends the Hot 97 Summer Jam 2014 concert at Metlife Stadium, June 1, 2014 in East Rutherford, NJ Walik Goshorn/MediaPunch /IPX

Following his death, the world is finding all about the various good deeds and community empowerment work Nipsey Hussle was doing, most of them were low key. Hussle, who was known to have gang ties, died after a shooting near his Los Angeles clothing store.

‘In 2010, Hussle, 33, whose birth name was Ermias Davidson Asghedom, according to IMDb.com, founded the record label All Money In, which he debuted with the release of ‘The Marathon,’ the rapper’s fifth official mixtape. His 2013 ‘Crenshaw’ release sold more than 1,000 cassettes each priced at $100, according to his Press Atlantic Records biography,” CNN reported.

Outside of music he launched the first Marathon Clothing smart store and owned The Marathon Agency, SC Commercial Ventures, Proud 2 Pay and All Money In No Money Out Records, according to Press Atlantic Records.

Tupac Shakur

***FILE PHOTO*** Police Reportedly Close To Arrest In Tupac Murder The Digital Underground (with Tupac Shakur) doing an interview at the KMEL Summer Jam at the Shorline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA. August, 1991. Credit: Pat Johnson/MediaPunch /IPX

There are some today who refuse to believe that 2Pac died. But on September 13, 1996, the rapper died six days after being gunned down on the Las Vegas Strip.

There have been many speculations as to what really happened the night of September 7, 1996.

“The only real evidence police have are the witness accounts from Outlaw member E.D.I Mean, who claimed to have seen all four men in the vehicle and Yaki Kadafi, who was involved in a scuffle with officers two days following the shooting after they pulled over a driver he was with and he protested. Officers did not try to locate Kadafi, who was later gunned down in Irving, NJ two months after the shooting,” The Source reported.

Pac’s killer has yet to be found or even suspected, even though after a confession police thought they were nearing an arrest last year.

NWA Founder Eazy-E


Hip hop artist/entrepreneur Eazy-E died in 1995 due to complications from AIDS.

“On February 24, 1995, Wright was admitted to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles with a violent cough. He was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. He announced his illness in a public statement on March 16, 1995…On March 26, 1995, Eazy-E died from complications of AIDS, one month after his diagnosis. He was 30 years old,” Wikipedia reported.

Ten months after Eazy-E’s death, his final album, “Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton” was released.

According to his son Lil Eazy-E, Eazy-E was worth an estimated $50 million at the time of his death.