Kris Kross' Chris Kelly and Chris Smith both largely disappeared from the music scene after they disbanded their hip-hop duo in 1998. But the hip-hop twosome, famous for their smash single "Jump" and backwards clothing style, reunited just two months ago for a live performance in Atlanta at the So-So Def 20th Anniversary All-Star Concert.
"He did a great job and was so proud to be there that night," says Shanti Das, a veteran music publicist and longtime industry friend of Kelly (a.k.a. "Mac Daddy,") who passed away on Wednesday May 1 at just 34 years old. At a February show attended by their mentor, Jermaine Dupri, plus Jay-Z, Mariah Carey and others, the all-grown-up group opened the show with a spirited performance.
Das, who worked with Kris Kross when they became hip hop stars in their early teens in 1992, was thrilled to reunite with Kelly that night. "We laughed about the good old days," she tells Us. "He was very much the Chris I always knew that night. He was excited about the show."
Indeed, Kris Kross were in talks to be among the performers on a So-So Def 20th anniversary tour. "Kris was excited about touring again and performing again. It's so sad. He was looking forward to touring again."
Back in the day, Das explains, "I used to take him to the studio and appearances. He was a little kid like any other, playing games and full of so much life and energy. Chris was always the life of the party."
Kelly's cause of death remains unresolved -- but a police report says that the rapper had been abusing both cocaine and heroin (a "speedball") the night before his death. He was first found unresponsive in his Atlanta-area home before passing away at a local hospital.