Wave of tragedy devastates the hip-hop community


Wave of tragedy devastates the hip-hop community

By Davey D

original article-may 19, 2006

Davey DThe hip-hop community has been hit with devastating losses over the past few months.

Fans around the world were saddened when producer J-Dilla of Detroit’s Slum Village suddenly took a turn for the worse and died in February of complications from lupus. His death was especially painful because it occurred just days before his critically acclaimed album “Donuts” came out. The previous week, an album-release party was held in Los Angeles, where numerous artists for whom Dilla had made beats, including De La Soul, were on hand.

The sudden death in March of Professor X (Lumumba Carson), leader of the Afrocentric political rap group X-Clan, sent shock waves throughout the community. His death was especially hard to accept because many had seen him at a media reform demonstration just three days earlier, where he had spoken about his determination to step up his activism and resurrect the Blackwatch organization founded by his father, Sonny Carson.

In addition, the members of X-Clan had patched up differences that had kept them apart for more than 10 years. They were set for a surprise reunion. The week Professor X died, he was supposed to visit California to shoot a video with group members Brother J and Paradise. This coast, particularly the Bay Area, had special meaning for the group because it was the first to embrace and champion the music of X-Clan, originally based in Brooklyn.

The fact that Professor X died of spinal meningitis made headlines in New York. The Professor X case underscored the music industry’s dirty little secret: Despite the billions of dollars the industry generates annually, most musicians do not have health insurance.

Weeks after these deaths, the hip-hop community was shocked to hear about the shooting death of Eminem’s best friend, Proof, leader of the group D-12. The charismatic Proof (who played the man who gave Eminem his start in the movie “8 Mile”) had announced that he was working with other artists on a tribute album for Detroit’s J-Dilla. Sadly, people are now doing a tribute album for Proof.

Over the past two weeks, California has lost three hip-hop legends, two of them on the same day. One was DJ Dusk, who spun frequently at Bay Area functions. Dusk was also a political activist in the area of education. He died two weeks ago, when he was hit by a drunken driver in Southern California as he walked a girlfriend to her car. According to witnesses, Dusk pushed the woman out of the way but was struck himself and dragged 80 yards. His selfless act speaks volumes about the kind of man he was.

His death was widely mourned in tributes around the country. He was so well loved that hip-hop pioneers Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Herc and Jazzy Jay made rare joint appearances in New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area, where Dusk had his biggest followings. They visited San Francisco last weekend to do a tribute and raise money for Dusk’s family.

On the day that DJ Dusk was killed, Michael “Mixin’ ” Moore, a pioneer in hip-hop radio in L.A., died at age 46 from heart failure. Best known for his Militant Mix, fusing speeches and news clips over popular instrumentals, he also is credited with inventing the 5 o’clock Traffic Jam, a mainstay on commercial radio around the country.

While the hip-hop icons were paying tribute to DJ Dusk last weekend, rap legend Skeeter Rabbit of the pioneering dance group the Electric Boogaloos died. He was an innovator in “strutting” and “popping” and was no stranger to the Bay Area, where he participated in numerous competitions.

On Saturday may 20th there will be two seperate tributes and funerals for Skeeter Rabbit and Michael Mixxing Moore

With all the deaths, many in the hip-hop community have taken time to reflect. Since no one is promised tomorrow, we must learn to appreciate what we have today. Digital Underground’s “Heartbeat Props,” which encourages us to honor the living, rings especially true these days.

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Yet Another Hip Hop Legend Lost-RIP Skeeter Rabbit



Yet Another Hip Hop Legend Lost-RIP Skeeter Rabbit
by Davey D
original article-May 15 2006
It’s hard to say what exactly is going on as of late, but Hip Hop has been hit with some devastating loses as of late. From J-Dilla to Proof to Professor X, the losses have come quick, without warning and have left very little time for folks to grieve before being impacted with another unexpected demise.
Here on the West Coast, we have been hit extremely hard. The lose of DJ Dusk to a drunk driver still has LA and much of the West Coast’s Hip Hop scene reeling. This past weekend, Hip Hop pioneers Afrika Bambaataa and Kool Herc made a rare appearance on the same bill to raise money for Dusk’s family. They performed in LA on Friday and then in the Bay Area on Saturday. Also on the bill was Jazzy Jay who wrecked shop. On Friday’s show DJ Z-Trip and Cut Chemist came through and also represented. The night before the LA appearance Herc, Bam and Jazzy Jay spun at Tabel 50 in New York, where Dusk had a strong following.
In an eerie sense of Deja Vu, while these Hip Hop pioneers and icons were paying tribute to DJ Dusk and others were still trying to make sense of the passing of DJ Michael Mixxing Moore who passed on the same day as Dusk, unbeknowst to many of us in attendence, another Hip Hop legend-Skeeter Rabbit of the pioneering dance group the Electric Boogaloos passed away earlier that morning…
The word is just now getting out beyond the dance community and needless to say people are besides themselves… Everyone is asking what is going on?  Why is so much death hitting us… The details surrounding his death    are still unclear and sketchy. We’ll await an official announcement from the Electric Boogaloos and Skeeter’s family
In the meantime here’s some biographical information about a man who greatly impacted Hip Hop…
“Skeet started dancing as a young kid growing up in the streets of Los Angeles. Skeet started out locking and soon after started popping with his cousins Boogaloo Sam and Poppin Pete around 1978. In 1979 Skeet became an official member of the EB’s and has gone on to become a pioneer and innovator of the dance styles popping and boogaloo.
Skeet is currently helping spread funk styles knowledge through shows, appearances and classes around the world.
Skeet has appeared in videos by such artists as Thomas Dolby, The Talking Heads, and Michael Jackson. His movie credits include: Michael Jackson’s “Ghost,” “DC Cab,” “Body Rock” and “Fast Forward.” He was also a featured dancer on David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour. “
You can click here to see a couple of clips of Skeeter Rabbit dancing..
You can also check the message boards of fellow EB member Mr Wiggle’s  for more info
or you can check the Electric Boogaloo’s website
Here’s a eulogy that was written for Skeeter Rabbit.
A Eulogy to Skeeter Rabbit: The Man Who Saw Too Much
I’ve just been sitting here looking at pictures of Skeet.  For such a loud person, its interesting how he is so often in the back, off to the side.  His face looks different now than I remember it–its like another side of him has revealed itself.  Its like I can see it now when I look in his eyes–how he was haunted by the things he saw.
If you don’t know me, lets just say that at first glance Skeeter Rabbit, even someone with the name Skeeter Rabbit, is a pretty unlikely person for someone like me to have crossed paths with.  He is an even more unlikely one for me to have considered such a close friend.  The last time I saw him, only about two weeks ago, we both had tears in our eyes (in a choked-up manly sort of way of course) after one of Skeet’s patented hugs and a year without seeing each other.  How did two people from such vastly different backgrounds come together like that?  In my opinion, its about who Skeet (Stephen Nicholas) is as a soul and who he was as a human being.
My relationship with Skeet is a pretty strange one.  Its strange because Skeet’s a Crip (and I’m sure that wherever he is, he’s throwing up signs as we speak) from the black part of Dallas who was relocated to Compton, Watts, South Gate–places I’ve only heard about in rap songs even though I now live in Los Angeles.  And me, I’m a young white guy from Maine, a place where gangs live only on MTV, black people are usually African refugees, and popping is called breakdancing.
I found this popping thing about five years ago and instantly fell in love.  I started watching videos and practicing in my bedroom and I of course idolized my favorite dancers, like Skeet.  When I finally met him, I was SCURRRRRRRRRRED as the kids say.  I was so shy and he was such an intimidating presence, but I was immediately struck with how warm he was.  He made me feel ok, like I was welcome, like I was the star of the show.
As I got to know him better, this pattern continued and ultimately, more than any other single person I have met in my life (and this is not just after-death hyperbole), Skeet taught me that I am ok–just as I am.  Skeet didn’t intend to teach me this–he was more intent on me getting the mechanics of the Toyman down, learning variations on the Egyptian Twist, and of knowing how to do the ORIGINAL walkout.  See, he taught me that I am ok simply by being him.  I wrote an autobiographical play about six months ago and while I didn’t mention Skeet by name, a key passage was written directly about this experience. It goes like this:
so I put on this act again and it was just another one of these acts and it got harder as I got closer to these dancers as people….cuz there were all these things I wanted to say to them.. ask them about their lives and their experiences and who they were and what they thought about.. 
and I couldnt because of that damn voice.. all I could say was like wassup dawg.. yo,  word?? ill homie yaaah fresh… and my vocabulary was like 20 words and I couldn’t get anything out.. it just kept building until there was like one of those moments where something just finally comes to a head.. I just had to open up.. I couldnt stand it anymore so I just went out on a ledge and I tried.. I just said it.. and.. I was talking just like Im talking now.. cuz I couldnt do anything else.. the only way I could get these feelings out was to talk like this.. and the weirdest thing happened.. he was this big black guy ya know.. and he’s just listening like… uh huh word.. yup.. and he.. he took it in.. and he started opening up to me.. telling me things he didn’t tell other people.. 
and at that moment, something popped and I was just like……..
black people are just….. 
they’re just……. 
wait a minute… maybe…. maybe people are just people… and I didn’t know what to say because
I just got accepted by a black guy
from the hood
as ME 
And that’s when it really started.. this part of me started moving to the forefront.. this part inside.. something that I wasn’t really familiar with started asserting itself more.. and.. it was really scary for me because I was coming from this if you cant touch it it doesn’t exist background right.. and this other thing wants to keep coming out.. Id get these urges… to cry… to pray… to just let go.. Sometimes… I’d just feel this indescribable longing…. like this remembrance… and before I knew it I started feeling the presence of God…
Now, Skeet loved telling gang stories and he told them so nonchalantly that it was hard for me sometimes to really comprehend how it must have affected him.  He told me casually that his first experience with gang violence was when he was 11 and how all he wanted to be when he grew up was a G.  He was fond of showing his scar from being stabbed and he was always proud of his collection.
But every so often I saw a different side of Steve.  It was like the anger and the pain could only be hidden or laughed off or run from for so long, and when he finally lost his breath and couldn’t keep up the act, there was a different person.  A deeply wounded, deeply regretful person who couldn’t help but ask why the things in his life happened as they did and why he couldn’t escape them.
When I got the call I was surprised, but somehow not.  I’m sure everyone can relate to that numbness that sets in.  As it started to sink in, I tried to get into his head–tried to get a peek inside and figure out how that happens and why.  And I kept picturing him reliving his past, haunted by memories he couldn’t make go away, regretting the things he’d done…  I’ll never know if this is true, but its as close as Ill probably ever get to understanding. 
And so I started to think that maybe there is a big lie that is sold to us about happiness and fulfillment and enlightenment.  It says that the more you open up to life, the more you let the grace of God into your heart, the easier/better/lighter your life becomes.  To me, Skeet proves that it isn’t true.  This is a man who as much as any I have encountered in my life strove for and stood for the truth.  And I know because of this, he saw an enormous amount of truth and light.  But he also saw a whole lot of dark.  He saw a lot of the ugliness of life, too much of the gritty reality that most of America and many of the people reading or hearing this are sheltered from.  And when you are open and honest and courageous enough to see the bad as well as the good, I think it is sometimes more than a human being can take. 
I have to say, on a far deeper level than I think words can express, I’m not sad at all–I’m not worried at all.  For I know Skeet and you and me and everyone has done this many times before and will do it many times again.  In Skeet’s eyes, I see an African warrior, a British philosopher, a Buddhist monk, an ancient martial artist, an Egyptian pharaoh.  But in this life, I see a deeply wounded man, an incredibly sensitive man who simply wasn’t able to harden or numb himself to the extent that his life experiences required him to do.
And last, as my duty to Stephen Nicholas, I would like to expand our scope.  As a child, this man was forced to grow up and see things that one should never see, let alone at the age that he did.  And in this regard, Skeet is just a number–another of the billions of people whose suffering and welfare are ignored and who are psychologically scarred for life by the things they experience in their childhood.  So, to those of you who mourn for Skeet, I hope you find it in you to extend that mourning to all children who grow up surrounded by war, by violence, by drugs, and by a system that tells them from day one that they don’t matter–whether the child lives in Maine, Dallas, Compton, Africa, Iraq, or Mexico.  And I hope we can use the life of someone who shined so brightly as a source of energy in our daily attempts to bring love and warmth to everyone we are fortunate enough to meet in this all-too-short little trip we call life.
For the dancers, Skeet always said to me that you have to find a teacher who teaches you how to teach yourself.  I’ve always seen myself as Skeet’s student and so I guess for me, its about that time now.  But I’ve been wondering about a final class, about what he might want to leave me with. It makes me think of the story Stretch told me, about how whenever they’re in Japan, Skeet is always the one going to the clubs to just get down–he just loves to dance.  And I think that’s what he’d say–that its as simple as that–just love to dance.
Skeet was a man of God.  His license plate read (in seven characters) I live for Him.  May we all be strong enough, courageous enough, and truthful enough–about who we really are, about what we are really going through–to do the same.  Thank you.

LA Loses Two Hip Hop Icons-The Nation Loses a Freedom Fighter


LA Loses Two Hip Hop Icons-The Nation Loses a Freedom Fighter

By Davey D

original article-May 05, 2006

Davey DThe city of Angels is in mourning as it has lost not one but two iconic figures within a week. In fact both passed away on the same day Saturday April 30th.

The first was DJ Dusk a well known member of the Universal Zulu Nation and an incredible DJ whose most recent exploits had him spinning every Thursday night at Rootdown at a club called Little Temple. Over the years Dusk made a huge impact for not only being an incredible diversified DJ who could spin everything from Salsa to Hip Hop to Reggae, he also made inroads on the radio. I believe he got down at Pacifica’s KPFK. He was one of those deejays who kept himself rooted in the community and tried to make a difference.

The circumstances surrounding Dusk’s death speak volumes to the type of man he was. The way it was explained to me, was He had a gathering of close family and friends at his home and was walking a woman back to her car when an out of control driver sped towards her. The woman was destined to be hit when Dusk leaped to her rescue. He pushed her out the way and tucked his head down to take the full impact of the vehicle which he knew would hit him. He was dragged for about 80 yards as the driver tried to escape. Luckily an alert passerby swung their pick up truck in front of the driver and prevented him from leaving. I’m not too sure about what sort of charges if any will be levied on the driver.

Last night (Thursday) all sorts of folks including Dusk’s family came out to the Little Temple to pay respects. People tried to stay upbeat, but in reality it was sad. It was sad to see his family experiencing such a major loss. It was sad to see those close to him holding it together, putting on a brave face, but inside mourning and missing Dusk greatly.

Ironically, the last time I saw Dusk was three weeks ago when he put together the annual tribute for DJ Rob One another iconic DJ from LA who passed away from brain cancer 5 years ago. Lots of people from all over including Hip Hop pioneer Prince Whipper Whip flew in from Michigan to pay tribute. The loss of Rob One, although 5 years later seemed to still be fresh on a lot of people’s minds. Dusk was the perfect host as he meticulously pulled old mixtapes and drops for the late DJ and played them for the audience. He wanted to make sure that a cat like Rob who meant so much to so many people would not be forgotten. He wanted to make sure that that those who attended would strive for the excellence that Rob One came to represent.

I’m sure no one in their wildest dreams would’ve thought we’d all be back at Rootdown paying tribute to DJ Dusk. It’s a sad thing and just underscored the importance of us not to take anything for granted.

As I sat at the bar listening to them play two of Dusk’s mixtapes… ‘Top Ranking’, a classic reggae and dancehall CD and ‘La Musica’ a classic Salsa CD, it hit me just how harsh this past year has been in terms of untimely deaths.

First it was J-Dilla, then it was Professor X and later on we lost Proof. We just lost Big Hawk down in Houston. We lost Taurus aka T who was hype man for The Coup. Atlanta rap star T.I. had his van shot up and lost one of his peoples. On top of that we lost LA Hip Hop pioneer Mixmaster Spade, Crip Founder turned Peacemaker Stanley Tookie Williams, C. Delores Tucker who fought to clean up the filth in the music industry, Rosa Parks the mother of the Civil Rights Movement and Coretta Scott King the first Lady of the Civil Rights Movement and widow to Martin Luther King. It seems like we were just talking about losing comedian Richard Pryor and heck it just a year ago I recall getting that painful phone call from Red Alert telling me that Justo Faison who was the deejays biggest advocate was killed in a car crash. Thats an awful lot of people who have meant something to us to be passing all within a year. Sadly I know I forgot a couple and I didnt include those who were close family and friends, like my cousin Michael who was like an older brother.

Again Im laying all this out so that we take this to heart and strive to make the most out of life and try and make life for those around you betterPlus I think its important that we always take time out to reflect on those who pass. I mean really reflect and not become so hardened that we see these passings as routine. I also think we need to be honest with ourselves about whether or not we actually gotten over the passings of people from a few years back.

Ill be honest its going on 10 years and I still think about 2Pac. I recall missing Rob One when we were at his tribute. The death of Jam Master J is still fresh in everyones minds. Many still mourn over Biggie. Those loses are still being processed by many of us and it gets harder and more complicated because we get hit with all these others

As we were sitting here dealing with the passing of DJ Dusk I got word that another LA legend passed away. Michael Mixxing Moore who used to spark the airwaves with his trademark Militant Mix on a number of radio stations including KKBT. This brother was all about taking Hip Hop and using it as a tool to spark social change and bring consciousness to those who needed it most. He wasnt the first to play speeches over break beats and dope Hip Hop instrumentals. But he was among the first to do it with an unmatched focus and determination to wake folks up at a time when radio was starting to dumb people down.

Im not sure what lead to Moore’s passing. Dude was only 46 years old and I hadnt spoken to him in quite sometime. I know I got hit up on Myspace and asked to be his friend. That was on Thursday or Friday of last week and in retrospect Im not sure if it was Mike or one of his peeps. I just recall getting his email and I said soon as I get back to LA, Im gonna give dude a call. He was a big part of LA history and just never got his props. By Saturday he was gone.

Because of Moore’s militant, uncompromising stance on important issues, he wont get the shine that others will get. No one should forget him getting a helicopter and dropping flyers calling out KKBT and accusing them of being racist during the Summerjam back in the early 90s after he had a huge falling out with them. No one should ever forget the passion in that exuded when he spoke about wanting to wake folks up. He was a mentor to many including DJ Mark Luv who heads up LAs Zulu Nation chapter. Damn I wish I could find copies of his militant mixes. He made his mark and should not go unnoticed. May he RIP.

damusmith-225Lastly we need to make a moment of silence for an activist who set the standard and never wavered from speaking truth to power. Damu Smith out of Washington DC may not get the accolades and praise that we have given to some of our fallen Hip Hop heroes who have passed on, but Damu was a giant figure among giants. He was known all around the world.

The work that he did and continued to do up to his recent passing where he advocated for Peace and Justice with his organization Black Voices for Peace is such that it helped elevate us all. In fact when you look at what Damu Smith stood for damn near all of his life, youll note that he championed causes that have led to so many untimely deaths. Damu was about spreading Peace and promoting both spiritual and physical health.

He was the type of cat who was knee deep in the battles along the environmentalist front. Talk about beef. He was the type of cat that fought tireless in places like Louisiana and Mississippi and throughout the south demanding that unscrupulous companies not use our neighborhoods as toxic dumping grounds. He wasnt some tree hugging hippie type. He was focused on getting rid of the dangerous toxins and chemical plants that was directed at many of our communities. Damn I wish I could run down everything this cat did. This man was an incredible organizer. And when he spoke he lit up the room. Damu was one of those cats who really set the standard because he walked the walk and talked the talk and he was humble. There were very few contradictions and discrepancies with him.

The sad part about Damus passing is that because of the dumbing down we have going on in urban radio and throughout a lot of urban media in general, he wont be given a moment of silence. No deejays are gonna play his speeches or talk about his life. Hell be one of those unsung heroes who one day well realize we came this far because of the work he put in You can peep more about Damu Smith here: www.damusmith.org/

So many deaths in so short a time I cant help but think and feel that God is asking for each of us to step up our game. Weve lost so many of our heroes to violence. We gotta do more then say RIP and play a few tribute songs. We lost so many to bad health and disease, and yet many of us are continuing down the same unhealthy paths that have taken our friends and loved ones. Many of us are not spiritually fit. We say we love the people who died but how many of us take the time and effort to carry out the sound ideals and solid effective work of those we so admired? All this is a jarring wake up call. Either we wake up or start doing the right thing or well soon find ourselves doing a lot more tributes…

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