Rest In Peace: Rammellzee
According to reports and confirmed by longtime friend and collaborator Fab 5 Freddy, legendary hip-hop artist Rammellzee has passed away. Rammellzee might not be a household name, but he remains one of the most important, forward-thinking visionaries to inspire hip-hop.
Rammellzee seemingly came out of nowhere -- a hip-hop alien. As the Village Voice notes, it's hard to confirm his real name or any solid biographical details other than a birth in New York City around 1960. He will mainly be remembered for the stunning 'Beat Bop' -- an early hip-hop collaboration with K-Rob that was produced by visual artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Over a super old-school, downtown-meets-uptown beat, Rammellzee throws out some of the craziest rhymes ever put to tape. He distorts his voice, changes accents and introduces eccentric flows that would go on to inspire many future acts -- most notably, the Beastie Boys. He would also make a cameo in Jim Jarmusch's 'Stranger Than Paradise,' wandering into the frame and handing a bag of money to one of the characters. Here's 'Beat Bop' and the scene from 'Stranger Than Paradise' (go to the 8:04 mark) for your enjoyment.
Rammellzee also played an influential role in most early hip-hop cinema. He composed music for the utterly amazing 'Style Wars' documentary about the birth of graffiti and you can find him as that guy on stage in 'Wild Style' toting a sawed-off shotgun.
As a visual artist, Rammellzee was an early graffiti pioneer and went on to collaborate with some big names in the art world, creating sculptures, paintings and cross-medium pieces under the umbrella of a theory he created called Gothic Futurism. He was always near-impossible to decipher, hiding behind ski goggles and elaborate costumes. You just always knew he was much cooler than you.