It is with extremely sad news to report the passing of Chucky Thompson.
The legendary producer and maestro behind hip-hop and R&B hits by Mary J. Blige, The Notorious B.I.G., and Faith Evans was only 53-years-old when his death was shared by producer, friend and mentee, Young Guru.
Later confirmed by AllHipHop.com, Thompson died after a reported battle with COVID-19.
Close friends and associates shared their sympathies and condolences instantly when the word hit the wire.
“There is nothing I can write that will take away this pain,” Guru wrote alongside a picture of him and Thompson. “I have to say RIP to my mentor, my big brother, the man who changed my life forever. You were the kindest person the world has ever seen. You were the most gifted musician I have ever been around. You treated me like family from day one. You made a point to the labels that I had to fly to New York with you on every session. You put me in rooms with Biggie.”
He added: “I will forever be in your debt and I will forever be your little brother. This one hurts so bad I can’t even explain it. RIP @ChuckLife365 there will never be another you!!!!”
Hailing from Washington, D.C., Thompson was a key component of Bad Boy Records’ glow-up in the 1990s. A friend of his in Baltimore introduced him to Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, who at the time had been dismissed from Uptown Records, and was about to go into the game for himself. “They didn’t have anyone up there that played a lot of different instruments,” Thompson recalled to You Know I Got Soul in 2011. “It was either you played keyboards or you just were a straight hip-hop producer/sampler, but I was all of those things.”
His versatility, plus working with Bad Boy’s in-house team of Easy Mo Bee and Rashad Smith, helped to send the newly minted label into the stratosphere. Thompson helmed Mary J. Blige’s seminal My Life opus, cooked up the forever smash hit “Big Poppa,” from Ready to Die, and has fingerprints all over Nas’ classic track “One Mic.”
“To anyone in his orbit, you know how generous he was with his energy, creativity and love,” publicist Tamar Juda said in a statement on Twitter. “Both the music industry and the world has lost a titan.”
Big Bub, who was the first to break the news of Thompson’s death in a heartfelt video, said, “We made history together. You was [an] anointed producer. We talked almost every other day. My brother from ‘DC.’ Your contribution to the music industry will live forever. Farewell King Chucky Thompson.”
Prior to his Bad Boy shine, Thompson got his start playing congas in go-go music legend Chuck Brown’s band, The Soul Searchers, and also produced songs for Tevin Campbell, New Edition, TLC, Busta Rhymes and Jennifer Lopez.
Most recently, Thompson reconnected with Diddy to produce songs on his upcoming album Off The Grid Volume 1, which is scheduled to be released this fall—marking the hip-hop mogul’s first full length album in over a decade. “He is Mr. Multitask… and that type of [work] ethics is the reason why he has the things happening that he has,” Thompson said of Diddy during a July 7 interview with Radio Andy’s Bevy Smith. “You know, it’s one thing is to have an idea, the whole other thing is to get it executed, and getting it done at the best level it can be. He taught us all how to get that hustle going.”
Though he’s lauded for making many of the beats that shaped the sound of ‘90s hip-hop and R&B, his production discography extended from that era to today. Earlier this year, he composed music for the History channel documentary Tuskegee Airmen: Legacy of Courage and was working to complete Chucky Thompson Presents D.C. Go-Go, about the music genre that was designated as the official sound of Washington D.C. in 2020.
EBONY sends our condolences to the friends and family of Chucky Thompson.
You can read the tributes from those within the industry below:
Read our retrospective on Chucky Thompson’s career written by Michael Butler.