3:53pm PT by Marc Schneider, Billboard
Jermaine Dupri on Kris Kross Rapper Chris Kelly: 'He Was a Son I Never Had'
To famed producer Jermaine Dupri, who turned a pair of backwards pants-wearing teens from Atlanta into the hit-making force Kris Kross, the death of Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly was like losing a son.
Dupri released his first statement since news broke that Kelly had died Wednesday at 34, calling the rapper a passionate and determined artist.
"To the world Chris was MacDaddy but to me, he was a son I never had. As much as you may think I taught him, he taught me. God has blessed me to be in the presence of so many naturally talented people, and Chris was one."
Kelly was found unresponsive at his home in Atlanta on Wednesday evening. He was transported to Atlanta Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. Police say the death is being investigated as a possible drug overdose.
In his statement, Dupri goes on to call Kelly a hard worker and one who was "always on point. His passion for the music, his love for doing shows his want to [be] better than everyone else, was always turnout up."
"When I think about it, I spent more time with Chris and Chris than damn near anybody in my whole life, so you can imagine how bad this hurts."
Dupri discovered Kelly and Chris "Daddy Mac" Smith in 1990 at a shopping mall. Two years later he wrote and produced their biggest hit, "Jump," which topped the Hot 100 for eight weeks and became the third biggest song of all of 1992.
Meanwhile, Kelly's mother, Donna Kelly Pratte, and So So Def records released a joint statement to Vibe on Thursday morning.
"To millions of fans worldwide, he was the trendsetting, backwards pants-wearing one-half of Kris Kross who loved making music. But to us, he was just Chris -- the kind, generous and fun-loving life of the party."
They go on, "Though he was only with us a short time, we feel blessed to have been able to share some incredible moments with him. His legacy will live on through his music, and we will forever love him."