When Chris Kelly, one-half of the teen-rap duo Kris Kross, was found dead of an apparent drug overdose last week, it was a tremendously sad day for Southern hip-hop. Not just because it provided a tragic ending to another tale of a child star struggling with post-fame adulthood, but because his passing robbed the world of a talent that helped turn an entire generation -- black, white and brown-- onto a genre of music that was still finding its legs in the pop landscape of the early '90s.
Led by the infectious, platinum single "Jump," Kris Kross' music -- penned and produced by another young savant, Jermaine Dupri -- proved that mega-selling rap records needn't all come from New York or California, foreshadowing Atlanta's ascension to the center of the hip-hop universe in the decade to follow. Ultimately, that's how Kris Kross is likely to be remembered: as much for the music they helped to inspire as for the tunes they created.
A detail that may not be remembered quite so well is the profound contribution that the group made to Houston hip-hop. The song "Da Streets Ain't Right" from the group's third and final album, Young, Rich and Dangerous, provided the beat for DJ Screw's "June 27th," the freestyle track that would come to define the chopped and screwed sound for which Houston hip-hop is best known today.