A Guide to the ’90s Rappers We’ve Lost

So many tears.

There are many who will passionately argue that the 1990s was hip hop’s greatest era. It was the decade that spawned the genre’s most iconic stars, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Lauryn Hill, The Notorious B.I.G., just to name a few. The art form crossed over from regional popularity to mainstream success that had an unquestioned influence on pop culture. As the music and business of hip hop continues to grow worldwide, the impact of the ’90s is not lost on us. We can still see its influence in today’s music and fashion. However, fans must also accept the harsh reality that comes with the deaths of so many of the stars from the era. It seems like we are so often celebrating the death anniversary of a ’90s rap star or posting condolences to social media for one who left us too soon. Today marks 21 years since hip hop legend Eric “Eazy-E” Wright died of complications from AIDS. Take a moment to honor Eazy and the many ’90s rappers who have moved on to drop dope rhymes in the afterlife. R.I.P.

  • 1 Eazy-E Died: March 26, 1995
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    Before his passing due to complications from AIDS, Eric “Eazy E” Wright was the mastermind behind hip hop’s most influential group, N.W.A. Though the “Godfather of Gangster Rap” left us too soon, he remains a significant figure in music and in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

  • 2 Phife Dawg Died: March 22, 2016
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    A Tribe Called Quest fans were dealt a heavy blow with the loss of dynamic emcee Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor. A founding member of the trailblazing rap group, Phife loss his longtime battle with diabetes at the age of 45. The adored wordsmith left behind a legacy of ingenious verses that help define an era of East Coast rap dominance.

  • 3 Nate Dogg Died: March 15, 2011
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    Nate Dogg’s passing at the age of 41, after a series of strokes, was felt from coast to coast within the hip hop community. The Long Beach, CA native shaped a legacy in music by ushering in a melodic sing-songy blend of R&B and gangster rap that made him the supreme hook master in the genre.

  • 4 Tupac Died: September 13, 1996
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    The murder of Tupac Shakur is a tragic low point for hip hop music. Pac was critically wounded during a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas on September 6, 1996, after an altercation with a Crips gang member at a Vegas casino. He died seven days later at the age of 25. Almost two decades since, the homicide remains unsolved.

  • 5 Notorious B.I.G. Died: March 9, 1997
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    Six months after Tupac’s murder, his rival The Notorious B.I.G. lost his life as a result of a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, CA. All signs pointed to the homicide being an act of retaliation for Pac’s killing. Big’s death at the age of 24, is a reminder that everyone loss the heated East Coast-West Coast beef.

  • 6 ODB Died: November 13, 2004
    Ol’ Dirty Bastard, one of hip hop’s most entertaining personalities, lost his life to a drug overdose at 35 years old. A vital member of the legendary rap group Wu-Tang Clan, ODB was a complex superstar who gave us life through his brash style and epic WTF moments.

  • 7 Big L Died: February 15, 1999
    Columbia Records
    Street violence cut short the life and promising career of Harlem rapper Big L. Just 24-years old, the “Ebonics” emcee was well on his way to rap stardom when he was shot and killed by a drive-by shooter in the Harlem.

  • 8 Fat Pat Died: February 3, 1998
    Wreckshop Records
    A major player in the rise of Houston’s Chopped & Screwed sound, Patrick “Fat Pat” Hawkins, was gunned down during an alleged encounter with a promoter. Pat’s debut album Ghetto Dreams was posthumously released six weeks after his death.

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  • 10 Left Eye Died: April 25, 2002
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    The music world stopped when word hit that TLC member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes died in a tragic car accident during a trip to Honduras. It’s been over a decade since her passing and Lopes’ infectious style and charisma is still sorely missed.

  • 11 Tim Dog Died: February 14, 2013
    Columbia Records
    The death of Bronx born rapper Timothy “Tim Dog” Blair was shrouded in mystery. News of Tim Dog’s passing shocked many in the hip hop community, but it later captured international attention when it was believed that the rapper-turned-alleged con man had faked his death to avoid being exposed. In the end proof of the rapper’s death was confirmed.

  • 12 Pimp C Died: December 4, 2007
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    Pimp C was as colorful a character we’ve ever seen in hip hop. His death from an accidental overdose on a cough-medicine concoction (lean) was heartbreaking for UGK (Underground Kingz) fans everywhere. Pimp C and his partner in rhyme Bun B were a pioneering Southern rap act that influenced countless stars from T.I. to Jay Z.

  • 13 MC Breed Died: November 22, 2008
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    The pride of Flint, Michigan, MC Breed is respected for helping to give Midwest hip hop a voice in the ‘90s. Before he passed at the age of 37 from kidney failure, Breed was a go to collaborator for a long list of hip hop stars that includes Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Pimp C. His biggest collaboration though, came on the 1993 hit single “Gotta Get Mine,” featuring Tupac.

  • 14 Apache Died” January 22, 2010
    Tommy Boy Records
    Most hip hop fans will remember Apache as a one-hit wonder who gained notoriety for his controversial 1993 song “Gangsta B-tch.” A member of Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit crew, Apache died from an undisclosed cause at the age of 45.

  • 15 Guru Died: April 29, 2010
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    Complications from cancer claimed the life of legendary rapper Guru after he fell into a coma following a heart attack. One-half of the influential group Gang Starr, Guru was instrumental in pioneering the East Coast sound that fused jazz with hip hop’s boom bap.

  • 16 Heavy D Died: November 8, 2011
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    Heavy D was the rare entertainer who was beloved by all. It didn’t matter age, race or music preference, Hev’s grace and charisma shined through in his all-inclusive catalog of hits. That very captivating appeal made it that more crushing for fans when he passed unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism at the age of 44.

  • 17 Mac Daddy (Kris Kross) Died: May 1, 2013
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    During the 1990s no hip hop act attained the level of success as child stars like Atlanta-bred duo Kris Kross. The popularity of their ubiquitous single “Jump” transcended hip hop and made them mainstream pop superstars. Unfortunately, in the decades that followed group member Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly fell victim to drug addition and died of an overdose at 34 years old.

  • 18 Lord Infamous Died: December 20, 2013
    Black Rain Entertainment
    As a founding member of the much-loved Southern rap group Three 6 Mafia, Lord Infamous played an intricate role in fathering the hip hop subgenre horrorcore. Sadly, Infamous died of a heart attack in his sleep just a month after his 40th birthday. However, the everlasting music he created with his brother DJ Paul and friend Juicy J is still tearing the club up today.

  • 19 Pumpkinhead Died: June 9, 2014
    A legend on the New York underground scene the Brooklyn rapper died at 39 years old after undergoing minor surgery at a New Jersey hospital. Before releasing his breakthrough single “Dynamic” in 1997, Pumpkinhead achieved his hard earned rep battling and freestyling throughout the hip hop Mecca.

  • 20 Big Pun Died: February 7, 2000
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    Christopher “Big Pun” Rios suffered a fatal heart attack at the height of his success. Just 28 years old his death devastated hip hop fans that were eager to see the larger than life star reach his full potential. Though brief, Pun’s body of work still puts him in the greatest lyricist of all-time debate.

  • 21 Mac Dre Died: November 1, 2004
    Romp Records
    Mac Dre is the quintessential Bay Area rapper. He was a distinctively non-conforming talent whose brand of gangster music was rooted in the reality of his life in the streets. After he was shot and killed during a drive-by shooting in Kansas City, Mo, Mac’s status in hop hop loomed larger. A true testament to his unique talent.

  • 22 Sean Price Died: August 8, 2015
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    Music fans first met Sean Price as one-half of the Brooklyn rap duo Heltah Skeltah, an arm of the super crew Boot Camp Clik. Throughout the 1990s he helped Boot Camp solidify their status as one of the greatest acts to hail from BK. He later established a die-hard following as a solo artist among a new wave of rap fans. Hence, when he passed away in his sleep at the age of 43 his unexpected death rocked two generations of hip hop heads.

  • 23 Hussein Fatal Died: July 10, 2015
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    A horrific car accident claimed the life of Tupac’s close friend and Outlawz group member Hussein Fatal. The New Jersey born rapper made his debut on Pac’s classic album All Eyez on Me and was featured on the controversial East Coast vs. West Coast diss track, “Hit ’Em Up.”

  • 24 Big DS (Onyx) Died: May 22, 2003
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    If Onyx debuted today we’d say their music is LIT! The Queens rap group made some of the ’90s most high voltage songs and performed them with just as much energy live. Let’s just say they were always turnt up. Sadly, cancer claimed the life of one of its original members Big DS a decade after they released their platinum debut, Bacdafucup, in 1993.