Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly, one half-of the '90s hip-hop duo Kris Kross, died of a possible drug overdose in Atlanta yesterday. Kris Kross, you may remember, was the duo responsible for 1992 crossover rap hit "Jump" (not to be confused with House of Pain's "Jump Around"), and for briefly popularizing the practice of wearing one's clothes backwards. It is also the group responsible for getting me to purchase my first rap tape. Or, rather, for getting my parents to purchase it for me, at a time when a working knowledge of "Jump" was basically a prerequisite for social inclusion on the elementary school playground.
What is it about "Jump" that so resonated with the recess crowd, that got a suburban white kid aged in the single digits to pry his parents out of $8.99 at Sam Goody one 1992 Friday night? It was pretty much everything. "Jump" arrived with the elements of a phenomenon built-in: Memorable lyrics (especially a single-word hook), indelible melody (that wormy organ/keyboard squeal that repeats throughout the chorus), a fresh set of slang (or at least a fresh way of saying "wiggita-wiggita-wiggita-wack" and "miggita-miggita-miggita-mack," which fueled a lot of hand-flapping and giggles), a striking fashion statement (see above; easy Halloween costume, too), and gobs of sheer novelty in the fact that these kids were only 13 (!).
The song, and their presence, was just threatening enough to be exciting to me, and just sweet enough to keep skeptical parents' alarm bells from going off at the store counter. I could only surreptitiously blast Wild 107.7 on my bedroom stereo for a taste of Tupac and Dre -- but Kris Kross, since my parents seemingly found it cute, was the first rap tape my pre-purchasing-power self was permitted to own.
When I got a CD player a couple years later, I even chose the duo's follow-up, Da Bomb, as my first CD. What a mistake that was. But then, in retrospect, no Kris Kross song could have reproduced the startling joy of "Jump." And the playground intelligentsia had already moved on to "Longview" -- since, apparently, no one's parents had listened to the lyrics.