Chris Kelly has died. He’s the one pictured above that’s closest to the camera as part of the Kriss Kross post-backwards clothing renaissance that was never truly reborn. Kelly is survived by his other rapping half Chris Smith, several others and - most prominently - his group’s legacy.
His rapping career serves as an important mythbuster for cynics today who believe music has never been dumber: Kris Kross was a Jermaine Dupree creation, marketed to propagate a fictitious rap war with rival children rappers Another Bad Creation, which was created in parallel by the Biv in Bell Biv DeVoe.
See, the kids of ABC wore their clothes inside-out, while Kriss Kross wore its clothes backwards - ‘cause inside-out is wiggidy-wiggidy-wiggidy wack. Your move, Ke$ha.
The opening salvo to Kriss Kross’ flagship hit single Jump asked you to choose between these two playground factions. Competition is good for business, so both Kriss Kross and ABC benefited from the battle; no one really “chose” a side. Meanwhile, actual gang violence was approaching its all-time peak in America.
Musically, Kriss Kross was part of the G-rated alternative rap offering for a hip-hop era largely defined by gangster rap. Young MC had already come and gone, and Kriss Kross arrived shortly after ABC in providing another alternative to DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, which itself had both grown stale and distracted by Will Smith’s success as an actor.
As is the case when previously-famous people die, the obituary transforms into a time machine. You hear that half of Kriss Kross died at 34 and instead of considering the tragedy of Kelly’s abrupt demise, you’re a child again, or you’re wearing your clothes backwards at a costume party in 1994, or you’re me at the Ohio State Fair that summer with a free ticket to see Kriss Kross shouting WARM IT UP, CHRIS! and hearing dozens in attendance shout back I’M ABOUT TO!
And while Kriss Kross has been no more for some time, now Kelly is no more, and once you get past the fond recollections of his fame you’re left with someone who died at 34, which as with all deaths so premature is perverse.
Thanks for the wonderfully stupid memories, Mr. Kelly. I will imagine you in the clouds with angel’s wings attached to the front of your ribcage.