John ‘Ecstasy’ Fletcher of Whodini dies at 56

UPDATED: John Fletcher, better known as Ecstasy from the pioneering rap group Whodini, has died, confirmed Grand Master Dee of the group. The cause of death was not clear at the time of publication of this article; he was 56 years old.

Roots drummer Questlove was the first to break the news on Wednesday (December 23) through a social media post in honor of the veteran rapper. “A love for the legendary #Whodini’s Ecstasy,” he wrote. “This man was legendary and a key member of one of hip hop’s most legendary groups. This is sad, man. “

Although not as well-known as hip-hop pioneers like Kurtis Blow or Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Whodini was among the first most popular and influential rap groups, through hit singles like “Friends”, “Freaks Come Out at Night, ”“ Magic’s Wand ”and“ The Haunted House of Rock. ”The group’s rap and singing combination and their heavy synth sound were a staple in the early 1980s nightclubs and brought the group an album by platinum and two gold. “The trio, along with producer Larry Smith, made the first hip-hop records that black radio embraced,” veteran writer Nelson George wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

In separate statements about Whodini’s influence, Tribe Called Quest rapper Q-Tip called Fletcher “one of hip-hop’s most underrated voices”, and Public Enemy’s galvanizing MC Chuck D wrote on Twitter: “[In] 1987 I joined the Def Jam tour. I tended to get nervous, looking at 15,000 fans in front of me every night. There were two MCS who directly guided my calm that summer. One was Doug E. Fresh and the other was Ecstacy of Whodini. Always ready to reassure you with advice and tips. “

Fletcher formed Whodini with singer and rapper Jalil Hutchins in Brooklyn, NY in 1982 and signed with the influential Jive Records shortly after. The group debuted with the single, releasing their first single The group – managed by Russell Simmons, who also managed Kurtis Blow and the then nascent Run-DMC – debuted with the single “Magic’s Wand”, a tribute to the early hip-hop DJ Mr And followed with a self-titled album (including the production of white electronic music artists Conny Plank and Thomas Dolby) in ’83.

But Whodini’s discovery came the following year with “Escape”. Produced by Larry Smith, associate of Kurtis Blow, it included hits like “Freaks Come Out at Night” and the cynical “Friends”, which is one of hip-hop’s most sampled songs, appearing on tracks by Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Tupac, Nas and more than 150 others.

With his trademark Zorro hat, Fletcher was the focal point of the group.

The group followed in 1986 with the Smith-helmed “Back in Black” and was second on the list on Run-DMC’s “Raising Hell Tour” that year – reflecting their status, they were charged above LL Cool J and from the Beastie Boys. However, the group’s popularity began to wane, despite its influence on the New Jack Swing style of the early 1990s, and several attempts at comeback were unsuccessful. Their final album, 1996’s “Six”, was produced by hitmaker Jermaine Dupri, who cited them as a major influence on his own work with KrissKross and TLC, and even briefly worked as a dancer for the group early in his career.

Although Whodini has largely remained on the nostalgia circuit for the past few decades, they have earned deserved recognition at various points, at VH1’s Hip Hop Honors in 2007 and at Black Music Honors in 2018, where they received the Hip-Hop Icon Award.

In a statement, Jalil Hutchins said: “’One Love’ for one of the best in Hip Hop! There will never be another. ”

In an official statement from the Fletcher family, Jonnelle Fletcher wrote: “African ancestors and Native Americans came together and chose this day, during the winter solstice, December 23, 2020, to appeal to a more beloved, generous and sincere soul that graced the heart of the world through presentations, hip- hop, family, children and grandchildren.

“John ‘Ecstasy’ Fletcher was a beloved man, Deltonia’s life partner and Carla’s ex-husband, Joseph’s twin brother, artist, friend and lifelong partner to Whodini’s Legendary Jalil,” the statement continues. “Whodini has established a Hip Hop course of legendary status that we will all surely pass on to our grandchildren.

“Please send love and prayers to our family, and with an open heart we ask ancestors to cover your soul in peace and tranquility. Play his music, if it moves you, and know that he will hear you on the way home this day, December 23rd. “

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