John “Ecstasy” Fletcher, from pioneering hip-hop group Whodini, dead at 56

Jalil Hutchins de Whodini (left) and John
Jalil Hutchins of Whodini (left) and John “Ecstasy” Fletcher (right) backstage in 1984. (Photo: Paul Natkin / Getty Images)

A who’s who of the hip-hop community took to social media on Wednesday to mourn the death of John “Ecstasy” Fletcher, better known as the charismatic co-vocalist of Zorro, Brooklyn Whodini’s pioneering rap trio. Questlove of the Roots was the first to break the sad news through its Twitter and Instagram accounts, posting: “One love to Ecstasy of the legendary #Whodini. This man was legendary and a key member of one of hip hop’s most legendary groups. This is sad, man. ”Grandmaster Dee of the group later confirmed the news to Variety, but no cause of death has yet been disclosed. Fletcher was 56 years old.

Fletcher formed Whodini with vocalist / lyricist Jalil Hutchins and turntablist Drew Carter, also known as Grandmaster Dee, in 1982, and they quickly became 80s New York rap stars alongside Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaataa, Run -DMC, the Fat Boys and LL Cool J. Managed by Russell Simmons, they launched R & B / electro crossover club hits that established the project for the New Jack Swing movement, including “Friends” (which went to fourth place on the Billboard Hot R & B / Hip-Hop Music Chart), “Freaks Come Out at Night”, “Five Minutes of Funk” and “The Haunted House of Rock”.

Whodini’s debut single, “Magic’s Wand”, co-produced by British synthpop pioneer Thomas Dolby, was the first rap song accompanied by a music video, and Whodini was a pioneer on stage too: his live performances were the first shows of rap to introduce the UTFO dance team and future super producer Jermaine Dupri started in show business as a Whodini backup dancer at age 12. Dupri was, of course, one of the many artists to pay tribute to Fletcher, posting a flashback video of the tour on Twitter with a broken heart caption: “My God, this one hurts me so much, I can’t believe I’m posting this, Ex you know I love you love, thanks for every word, every conversation, every good moment, that your soul rests in power. “

On your official Twitter account, Public Enemy wrote, “Ecstasy was my brother. I’ve been on the phone all morning. Ecstasy was one of the biggest ever to swing a microphone. Whodini broke barriers, set trends and took care of us as we emerged. PE returned the favor we proved from Whodini and brought them on tour. We had a real brotherhood ”, while that group Chuck D also posted, “1987 I joined the @Defjam w PE tour. I tended to be nervous looking at 15,000 fans in front of me every night. There were 2 MCS who directly guided my calm that summer. 1 was @RealDougEFresh, the other was Ecstasy of Whodini. Always there to reassure our advice. “

A tribe called Quest’s Q-Tip called Fletcher “One of the most underrated voices in hip-hop,” LL Cool J called Fletcher “one of the most important people in this culture for me”, and Ice Cube thanked Fletcher “For showing us how to do it.” Other heavyweights in music paying homage include Ice-T, Snoop Dogg and Sheila E.

Throughout his career, Whodini released six studio albums, four of which were certified platinum; his final LP, 1996 Six, was released on Dupri’s So So Def label. Whodini was also one of hip-hop’s most experienced artists; “Friends” alone has been sampled over 150 times, mostly on tracks by Kanye West, Nas, Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, the Pharcyde, Public Enemy, Nipsey Hussle, Will Smith, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Fabolous, Nate Dogg and E-40. The group appeared in 2007’s VH1 Hip-Hop Honors and received the Hip-Hop Icon Award at Black Music Honors in 2018.

Check out the tributes to John “Ecstasy” Fletcher below:

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