Rap Pioneer John ‘Ecstasy’ Fletcher Of Whodini Dies at 56

Melissa M. Munoz

John Fletcher, very best recognised as Ecstasy from the revolutionary rap team Whodini, has died, the group’s Grand Master Dee has verified. The result in of demise was unclear at the time of this article’s publication he was 56.

Roots drummer Questlove was the very first to crack the information on Wednesday by means of a social-media put up paying out tribute to the veteran rapper. “One love to Ecstasy of the famous #Whodini,” he wrote. “This guy was legendary and a pivotal member of 1 of the most legendary groups in hip hop. This is unfortunate guy.”

John “Ecstasy” Fletcher of Whodini performs in 2007.

When not as well-recognized as early hip-hop pioneers like Kurtis Blow or Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5, Whodini were being among the the most well-liked early rap outfits, through hit singles like “Friends,” “Freaks Arrive Out at Night time,” “Magic’s Wand” and“The Haunted House of Rock.”

The group’s mixture of rapping and singing and its synth-large seem ended up a staple in early’80s nightclubs and introduced the team one particular platinum and two gold albums. “The trio, together with producer Larry Smith, produced the to start with hip-hop documents that black radio embraced,” veteran writer Nelson George wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

In individual testimonials to Whodini’s impact, A Tribe Identified as Quest rapper Q-Suggestion referred to as Fletcher “one of the most under-appreciated voices in hip-hop,” and Public Enemy’s galvanizing MC Chuck D wrote on Twitter: “1987 I entered the Def Jam tour. I tended to be nervous, searching at 15,000 supporters in front of me each and every evening. There have been two MCS that instantly mentored my relaxed that summer months. A person was Doug E. Fresh new and the other was Ecstacy of Whodini. Often there to reassure with assistance and recommendations.”

John Fletcher raps during a 2006 performance.

John Fletcher raps in the course of a 2006 functionality.

Fletcher formed Whodini with singer-rapper Jalil Hutchins in Brooklyn, NY, in 1982 and signed with the influential Jive Data soon following.

The group — managed by Russell Simmons, who also managed Kurtis Blow and the then-nascent Run-DMC — debuted with the solitary “Magic’s Wand,” a savvy tribute to early hip-hop DJ Mr. Magic and adopted with a self-titled album in 1983.

But Whodini’s breakthrough arrived the next yr with “Escape.” Manufactured by Kurtis Blow affiliate Larry Smith, it involved this kind of smashes as “Freaks Arrive Out at Night” and the cynical “Friends,” which is one particular of the most sampled tracks in hip-hop, showing in tracks by Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Tupac and extra than 150 others.

With his trademark Zorro hat, Fletcher was the focal position of the team.

John "Ecstacy" Fletcher, center in the hat, performs with Whodini during a 1984 concert in Chicago.

John “Ecstacy” Fletcher, middle in the hat, performs with Whodini during a 1984 concert in Chicago.

The group followed in 1986 with the Smith-helmed “Back in Black,” and had been second on the invoice on Operate-DMC’s “Raising Hell Tour” that 12 months — in a reflection of their status, they have been billed higher than LL Great J and the Beastie Boys.

Nevertheless, the group’s recognition experienced started to fade, irrespective of their impact on the New Jack Swing fashion of the early 1990s, and several tries at a comeback have been unsuccessful. Their last album, 1996’s “Six,” was generated by hitmaker Jermain Dupri, who cited them as a key influence on his have get the job done with Kriss Kross and TLC, and even briefly worked as a dancer for the group early in his occupation.

Though Whodini mostly remained on the nostalgia circuit in new a long time, they did get nicely-deserved recognition at various details, at VH1’s Hip Hop Honors in 2007 and at the Black Audio Honors in 2018, in which they received the Hip-Hop Icon Award.

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