Eazy E was 31 when he died in March 1995, revered by many as the godfather of gangsta rap. With Ice Cube and Dr. Dre he created NWA, releasing the classic album Straight Outta Compton and several other hits.
Tupac Shakur is recognized as one of the best lyricists of a generation & infamous for his violent beef with Biggie. While many remember Pac as the personification of West Coast gangsta rap, he was a renowned poet & leading critic of the plight facing black America. Tupac was murdered in 1996.
Christopher Wallace went from local Brooklyn rapper to international superstar Biggie Smalls aka Notorious B.I.G. He became the image of East Coast rap in the 1990s. Biggie’s violent beef with Tupac led to his March 1997 murder, but his music remains classic.
Big L, was a major New York rapper who made serious contributions to the scene. He won respect with his debut album, Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous and was a member of the group D.I.T.C. Big L was killed in 1999 before he could release his second album.
Big Pun, a Bronx born Puerto Rican, rose from the underground to be a serious lyrical contender by the late 1990s. Pun performed with the Beatnuts and Fat Joe, but was taken by a heart attack at age 28 in February 2000.
Who can forget the image of this classic DJ, Jam Master Jay, of Run-DMC with the black hats and Adidas shoes of the late 1980s. His group became one of the biggest hip hop groups ever and the first to bring Hip Hop mainstream. Jay died in 2002.
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was 30 when she passed away in 2002. One of the stars in the female trio TLC, Left Eye is immortalized in the songs “No Scrubs”, “Waterfalls” and “Hat 2 da Back”.
Freaky Tah was a rapper from Jamaica Queens and a member of The Lost Boyz together with Mr. Cheeks, DJ Spigg Nice, and Pretty Lou. He made several memorable songs before his death in March 1999.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard was one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan, bringing the group to prominence with the 1993 album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). ODB launched a solo album in 1999, but died of an accidental overdose in November 2004.
Detroit bred Proof was a member of the groups Goon Squad, 5 Elementz, Promatic, and D12. He toured with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem and appeared in the films 8 Mile and The Longest Yard. Proof performed in numerous collaborations before his death in April 2006.
J. Dilla was a producer from Detroit and one of the industry’s most influential artists. He was a a member of the group Slum Village and produced for Raekwon, Common, Erykah Badu and many others. He had one solo album under his belt before he died in 2006.
Founding member of the Undergound Kingz, Pimp C and partner Bun B are considered one of the founders of the Houston, Texas sound. Pimp C is known for the song “I Choose You” and a collabo with Jay-Z in “Big Pimpin”. He died in late 2007 at age 33.
Keith Elam, was 48 when he died from cancer last spring. Known as Guru, meaning Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal, he was part of the hip hop duo Gang Starr and released several albums in the 1990s.
Nate Dogg passed away at age 41 in March of this year. The West Coast rapper is famous for his work in the 1990s with Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and Eminem, making his debut with 1999’s The Chronic. Nate Dogg was also featured on several popular singles in the 2000s.
Montae Talbert, known as M-Bone, was 22 when he was killed in a drive-by shooting last month. He was a member of group Cali Swag District, known for their hit “Teach Me How To Dougie”.
Heavy D will always be remembered as one of hip-hop’s most lovable personalities. His hits “Now That We Found Love” and “The Overweight Lover’s in the House” are mainstays on any 90s soundtrack.
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As we celebrate the life and music of Heavy D, we take a look at fallen rappers who died a bit too soon. From the early death of Eazy E in 1995 to the loss of Biggie and Tupac to the recent reminder of how close to home gang violence can strike with the death of Cali Swag District’s M-Bone, we remember those whose music we can’t forget.
While the funerals are history and the tributes long gone, we still repeat their lyrics and will replay their music videos. Here’s a brief look at those we will always remember. May they rest in peace.