There has been a great deal of news around the rappers who have met their untimely deaths due to drug use or violence. After all, such topics generally make sensationalized news stories. However, many rappers have also met tragic endings due to the types of causes that can take us all- illness, accidents, or other health conditions. Here’s our tribute to the rappers that died too soon due to health, accidents, or natural causes.
Darren Robinson (June 10, 1967 – December 10, 1995), otherwise known as Big Buff, Buff Love, Buffy, The Human Beat Box, and DJ Doctor Nice, was a pioneer in beatboxing as well as a member of the 1980s hip hop group the Fat Boys. In 1995, weighing 450 lbs. at the time, he was diagnosed with lymphedema or fluid buildup. He died of a heart attack 24 years ago on December 10, 1995.
Another untimely death in 1995 was that of Eric Eazy-E Wright (September 7, 1964 – March 26, 1995). , AIDS (1995). He was one of the original West coast rappers and a founding member of N.W.A alone with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. He was largely responsible for the iconic Straight Outta Compton album as well as several solo hits. In the spring of 1995, he entered the hospital with what he expected to be bronchitis. He was diagnosed with AIDS, and due to the lack of medication that is present today, he died almost immediately after announcing his illness to the public on March 26, 1995.
Big Pun (November 10, 1971 – February 7, 2000), born Christopher Lee Rios, was one of the most influential rappers of New York’s underground rap scene in the 1990s. With a highly technical and fast-paced lyrical style, he was regarded as one of the best MCs in New York. After appearing on albums with Fat Joe, he struck out on his own in 1997 with Capital Punishment, his debut studio album. It peaked at #5 on the Billboard 200 in 1998, becoming the first solo hip hop record by a Latino artist to go Platinum. Big Pun struggled with weight his whole life, reportedly weighing upwards of 698 pounds at the time of his death. On February 5, 2000, he suffered a heart attack in New York. Paramedics were unable to retrieve him and he died. He was 28.
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (May 27, 1971 – April 25, 2002) remains one of the most influential women in hip-hop. One-third of TLC, alongside Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Lopes was credited with writing many of the group’s songs as well as designing many of their outfits. She won four Grammy awards with TLC before embarking on a short solo career. On April 25, 2002, she was in Honduras doing charity work and working on a documentary when she tried to avoid a head-on collision and instead drove off the road. She was killed immediately.
James Dewitt Yancey (February 7, 1974 – February 10, 2006), aka J Dilla, was a Detroit-based rapper and producer and one-third of the acclaimed underground group Slum Village. Along with successful solo ventures, he also collaborated with A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, The Roots, The Pharcyde, Common, and more. As his success grew, his health worsened as he suffered from thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (a rare blood disease) as well as lupus. However, he still performed, using a wheelchair if needed. He died in his Los Angeles home on February 10, 2006, from cardiac arrest.
Keith Edward Elam (July 17, 1961 – April 19, 2010),, better known by his stage name Guru (an acronym for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal), was a rapper, producer and actor. A member of the legendary hip hop duo Gang Starr, along with DJ Premier, Guru was ranked by The Source as #30 on the list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time, saying “Guru dropped some of the most thoughtful rhymes on wax.” On February 28, 2010, Guru went into a coma following a battle with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. He died on April 19, 2010, at the age of 48.
Nathaniel Dwayne Hale (August 19, 1969 – March 15, 2011), aka Nate Dogg, came up with Warren G and Snoop Dogg, lending his trademark deep vocals to some of the West coast’s greatest hits of the ’90s and creating the G-funk sound. In addition to three solo albums, he also collaborated with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Tupac, the Westside Connection, 50 Cent, Ludacris, Xzibit, and more. However, before embarking on music, he served three years in the U.S. Marines as an ammunition specialist. He suffered a stroke in 2007 that left the left side of his body paralyzed. In 2008, another stroke left his whole body paralyzed. He died on March 15, 2011. The official cause of death was complications of multiple strokes.
Heavy D (May 24, 1967 – November 8, 2011), born Dwight Arrington Myers was a rapper, producer, and former leader of Heavy D & the Boyz. He was one of rap’s pioneers in the 1980’s. In addition to collaborations with major artists such as Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, and more, he also discovered Puff Daddy. Heavy D won critical acclaim for his acting in his role as a migrant worker role in the 1999 drama film The Cider House Rules, receiving a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for best cast in a motion picture. He collapsed outside of his Beverly Hills home on November 8, 2011. He had reportedly been suffering from heart disease, but the official cause of death was a pulmonary embolism.
Courtney Everald “Jamal” Dewar Jr., aka Capital STEEZ (July 7, 1993 – December 24, 2012), was an Brooklyn-based rapper and founder of the rap collective Pro Era as well as the “Beast Coast Movement,” which consisted of three main groups based in Flatbush, New York: Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and The Underachievers. December 23, he sent a cryptic tweet that simply read: “The end.” On December 24, 2012, after reportedly sending text messages to a few of his closest friends telling them that he loved them he committed suicide by jumping from the rooftop of the Cinematic Music Group headquarters in Manhattan. He was 19 years old.
Lord Infamous (November 17, 1973 – December 20, 2013), born Ricky T. Dunigan, was one of the co-founders of Three 6 Mafia along with his half-brother DJ Paul and Juicy J. Following his time with Three 6 Mafia, he formed a new record company with Memphis-based rapper II Tone called “Black Rain Entertainment”. Following the addition of Memphis rapper Mac Montese and Atlanta rapper T-Rock, the company was rebranded “The Club House Click”. He died of a heart attack in his sleep at his mother’s home in Memphis, Tennessee on December 20, 2013.
Henry Lee Jackson (January 11, 1956 – November 11, 2014), aka Big Bank Hank, was one of the first rappers to cross over into the mainstream charts. He was a member of the iconic Sugarhill Gang, the first hip hop act to have a hit with the cross-over single “Rapper’s Delight” in the pop charts in 1979, making him one of hip-hop’s pioneers. On November 11, 2014, he died at the age of 58 from cancer.
Sean Duval Price (March 17, 1972 – August 8, 2015, also sometimes known as Ruckus or Ruck, was a Brooklyn-born rapper and members of both the hip hop collective Boot Camp Clik as well as half of the duo Heltah Skeltah. Following many solo ventures as well as collaborations, he became a well-known figure in the underground hip-hop community. In 2011, he served as a judge on the Ultimate MC TV show along with Royce da 5’9″, Pharoahe Monch, Organik, and Planet Asia. On August 8, 2015, Price died in his sleep at the age of 43. No official cause has been revealed, but it appears to have been of natural causes.
Chicago-based rapper, Derrick Coleman (July 4, 1990 – January 19, 2018), also known as Fredo Santana, established himself as an up-and-coming hip-hop artist along with his cousin Chief Keef. Following a record deal in 2012, the artists had collaborated with major names such as Drake, Maxo Kream, Lil Durk, and Lil B as well as put out several solo songs. No cause of death was immediately revealed, but Santana was hospitalized three months before with kidney and liver failure before ultimately passing away on January 20, 2018. He was 27 years old. Prodigy (November 2, 1974 – June 20, 2017), born Albert Johnson, was a rapper best known as half of the duo Mobb Deep along with Havoc. complications related to his sickle-cell anemia. In addition to a successful group and solo career, he was also an author, co-writing the urban crime novel H.N.I.C. with British author Steven Savile as well as a cookbook, Commissary Kitchen: My Infamous Prison Cookbook. In June of 2017, he was admitted to the hospital due to complications with his sickle-cell anemia. He ultimately died on June 20, 2017, due to those complications