John “Ecstasy” Fletcher, who helped form the legendary New York Whodini group in 1982, has passed away suddenly. He was 56. Whodini was one of the first to add R&B and electro into its music and changed the hip-hop game.
Hip-hop artist-producer Questlove of The Roots broke the news on Dec. 23 in an Instagram tribute to the hip-hop legend.
“One love to Ecstasy of the legendary #Whodini,” Questlove said. “This man was legendary and a pivotal member of one of the most legendary groups in hip hop. This is sad man.”
Public Enemy’s Chuck D also paid homage to the hip-hop icon on Instagram, saying, “Ecstasy was one of the greatest to ever rock a microphone. Whodini broke barriers, set trends and looked out for us as we came up. PE (Public Enemy) returned the favor. We sampled Whodini, and brought them on tour. We had a real brotherhood. Looking out for each other. ‘EX’ Rest in power king. Know you will live on and be remembered. We will make sure.”
Tweets flooded the internet: “If you were born in the early 80s or late 70s and a hip hop lifer, that Escape album by Whodini has so many songs that are just woven into your fabric. A dope album by a dope group. First rap album to break US Billboard Top 40.”
Another posted, “Man how I LOVED Whodini as a kid, and I thought Ecstasy was just so cool RIP.”
Fletcher was born on June 7, 1964 and went on to form Whodini with Jalil Hutchins in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1982. DJ Grandmaster Dee joined the group in 1986. Together, they crafted hit singles such as “The Haunted House of Rock,” “Freaks Come Out at Night,” “Friends” (which went to No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart).
Whodini’s debut single, “Magic’s Wand,” was the first hip-hop song to be accompanied by a music video, Yahoo reported. The track was co-produced by British synthpop pioneer Thomas Dolby.
Whodini started new performing trends as well. Their live performances were the first hip-hop shows to feature the dance crew UTFO performing breakdancing. Future super-producer Jermaine Dupri got his start as Whodini’s backup dancer at age 12.
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Dupri honored Fletcher by posting a flashback tour video on Twitter with this emotional caption: “My God, this one hurts me so bad, I can’t even believe I’m posting this, Ex you know I love you, thank you for every word, every conversation every good time, may your soul rest in power.”
Long after their recording career had ended, Whodini was honored in 2018 at the Third Annual Black Music Honors. They received the Hip-Hop Icon Award and a tribute from fellow groundbreaking hip-hop artists Doug E. Fresh, Yo-Yo, and Monie Love, who took the stage to perform their classic hits, Revolt reported.