Phife Dawg of veteran rap group A Tribe Called Quest suffered a crushing loss earlier this month when his protege, underground rapper Jax, died on stage during a performance at Lenny's in Atlanta. According to reports, the young rapper, born Chris Thurston, died of a heart attack.

Thurston was a popular and well-respected rapper in Atlanta's thriving underground scene, along with his group Binkis Recs, and his talent eventually caught the attention of Phife, DJ Rasta Root and DJ Drama.

"I just don't cater to anyone like that," Phife said in a radio interview. "I used to kid him and call him Ghostface Jr., with his whole swagger and the way he attacked the tracks. His energy was also similar to [Busta Rhymes']."

The underground emcee was working alongside Phife and Rasta Root to launch the independent label Smokin' Needles Records before his untimely death. Funeral services for Thurston were held in his hometown of Queens, N.Y. on November 15.

Departed Music Personalities

    Mitch Mitchell, Nov. 12: The rock durmmer, left, and last surviving member of the legendary Jimi Hendrix Experience, was found dead of apparent natural causes in a Portland hotel room at age 61. The leader of the band overdosed in 1970, while bassist Noel Redding, right, died in 2003.

    Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

    Miriam Makeba, Nov. 10: THe South African singing legend who was banned from her own country for more than 30 years under apartheid died from a heart attack after collapsing on stage in Italy. She was 76.


    Shakir Stewart, Nov. 1: The Island Def Jam executive who became head of the legendary rap label following Jay-Z's departure, killed himself on Nov. 1. Police say he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 34 years old.

    Merl Saunders, Oct. 24: The rock and jazz keyboardist who recorded albums with music titans like The Grateful Dead and Miles Davis, died at the age of 74 after complications from a stroke.

    Christopher Felver, Corbis

    Dee Dee Warwick, Oct. 18: The soul songstress died after months of declining health. Warwick, the sister of soul legend Dionne, also achieved a great deal of success, both as a solo artist as well as with her sister.

    Getty Images

    Levi Stubbs, Oct. 17: The iconic lead singer, second from left, who gave voice to Four Tops classics like "Reach Out I'll Be There" and "Baby I Need Your Loving" died at 72 from complications of cancer and a stroke. Abdul Fakir, far left, is now the sole living member of the original quartet.


    Nick Reynolds, Oct. 1: The Kingston Trio led the folk music uprising in the late 1950s, paving the way for the Dylans and the Baezs of the world. Reynolds, right with Dave Guard and Bob Shane, had been in the hospital with acute respiratory disease before his family took him off life support. He was 75.


    Norman Whitfield, Sept. 16: The Motown tunesmith responsible for anthems like 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine' 'Car Wash' and 'War' died shortly after awakening from a diabetes-related coma. He was 67.

    Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

    Richard Wright, Sept. 15: With Pink Floyd, he unleashed new sounds from his collection of synths and organs that gave the band its signature psychedelic sheen. Wright, who also wrote mammoth cuts like "Us and Them" for the band, died following a battle with cancer. He was 65.


    Jerry Reed, Sept. 2: He started off as a guitarist, eventually had a string of country hits and also made the jump to the big screen with successful turns in Burt Reynolds films like 'Smokey and the Bandit' and 'Gator.' Reed lost a battle to emphysema at 71.

    Doug McKenzie, Getty Images

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