As the story goes, Jermaine Dupri discovered Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly and Chris “Daddy Mac” Smith at a shopping mall in their native Atlanta. Dupri was only eighteen when the duo signed their recording contract with Ruffhouse Records in 1990. Together, they took America on an unforgettable ride with their trendsetting clothing styles and rhyming skills, releasing their debut album Totally Krossed Out in early 1992.
During this juncture, hip-hop music was being dominated by east and west coast heavyweights like N.W.A, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J, Heavy D & The Boyz, among many others. Yet some how, two pint sized kids from the South staked a claim atop the recording charts. Their first single, “Jump” produced by Jermaine Dupri and Alan Price (and featuring a sample of another kiddie hit—the Jackson 5's "ABC") would solidify them as a household name, selling two million copies and landing them at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for an impressive eight week span making it the first single since The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” in 1983 to have such a run. The single would skyrocket to the top of the music charts in Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
"Jump" propelled Kriss Kross to immediate superstardom. Kids everywhere began wearing their Starter jerseys, hats, and pants backwards. I was one of them and I knew many people who had problems using the bathroom because of their adherence to the trend. The Chrises' infectious charisma and rhythmic delivery led to more success with the releases of their next three singles, “Warm It Up,” “I Missed the Bus,” and “It’s a Shame.”
Totally Krossed Out ended up selling 4 million copies in the US and 3 million copies in Canada. They garnered the attention of corporate America, Hollywood, and their contemporaries. The group even had a video game developed by SEGA—Kris Kross: Make My Video. They were invited to be the opening act on Michael Jackson’s Dangerous World Tour, starred in Sprite commercials, made cameo appearances in music videos with TLC and Run D.M.C. and appeared onTV shows and in movies such as A Different World, In Living Color, and Who’s the Man? Their second album, Da Bomb didn’t perform as well as their debut, but it went on to sell one million copies in the US and 4 million copies worldwide. Their single, “Alright” featuring reggae legend Supercat was the only single to hit number one on the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B charts. Their final album, Young, Rich & Dangerous would be released in 1996 and was certified gold.
With the untimely passing of Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly, it is the appropriate time to put into context the impact Kris Kross had on urban culture during the early 1990s. They weren’t just a passing fad as many culture critics of that time complained—they were trendsetters. When their first album was released, Atlanta, Georgia wasn’t on the national map for rap music. The South wasn’t taken seriously as a region that could produce a groundbreaking hip-hop act. And in an era of 'gangsta rap,' these kids made records about dancing, having fun and missing the school bus. Kris Kross broke ground for many young performers to follow and they released three highly successful albums within a four year time period. The average rap group can't say the same. As details about Kelly's death emerge and speculation over the end of his life abounds, I'd prefer to thank him and Kriss Kross for making a whole generation "Jump."
Chris Williams is an internationally published writer. You can follow him on Twitter @CWmsWrites.