Kris Kross

  • Hip-hop duo formed in 1991 from Atlanta Georgia. The members were Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly and Chris “Daddy Mac” Smith.
  • Kelly and Smith became friends in first grade. They liked hip-hop songs, but they had no expectations to perform publically. In 1991, they were shopping with Kelly’s mom in a mall in Atlanta – they were twelve years old. That day, 19 year old music producer Jermaine Dupri also was at the mall – Dupri had been performing since he was nine and by 1990 he was producing his first hip-hop act. Kelly and Smith asked Dupri for an autograph, and Dupri noticed that the young girls in the mall were drawn to the kids, decked out in stylish clothes and cool sneakers. They began a conversation, and Dupri took them under his wing, thinking that they had the talent to perform.
  • Dupri developed a musical strategy and an identity for the duo. When they named themselves Kris Kross (a play on their first names), Dupri had them wear their clothing backwards, further enhancing their name. Through his connections in the industry, Dupri got Kris Kross signed to a record deal in the summer of 1991.
  • The duo started recording their debut album in September 1991. The hip-hop songs were written by Dupri and Joe Nicolo, the co-owner of the record label. They recorded over five months, with Dupri and Nicolo producing, polishing the songs to the sound they wanted. In March 1992, Totally Krossed Out was released. The first single was Jump. It sampled seven songs from other artists – hence the 26 co-writers that are credited on the song. Suddenly, Kelly and Smith, both thirteen years old, had a #1 hit – it topped the Hot 100 chart for eight weeks, and it was in the top 10 of over 20 international charts, including #1 in eight countries. Jump was the #3 Hot 100 song for the entire year, and the #23 song for the entire decade of the 90s.
  • Totally Krossed Out topped the Billboard 200 album chart as well as the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and it was certified 4x platinum. A second single, Warm It Up, reached #13 on the Hot 100 chart and #3 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Two more singles were released – I Missed the Bus and It’s a Shame were less successful. The former reached #63 on the Hot 100, and the latter failed to make the Hot 100, though it peaked at #11 on the Hot Rap Songs chart.
  • Given their sudden success, they quickly were added to open for Michael Jackson during the European leg of Jackson’s concert tour in 1992. They also had a cameo appearance on Jackson’s music video Jam, and appearances in several other music videos and television shows. A video game was created featuring the duo, titled Kris Kross: Make My Video – it made at least one list of the Worst Video Games of All Time. In 1993, Kris Kross became spokeskids for Sprite – they recorded a rap song and a commercial for the brand.
  • In 1993, Kris Kross released their second album, Da Bomb. They were in puberty, and their voices had deepened. Dupri produced the album with a tougher sound and the duo adopted more of a gangsta rap image. Fans did not take as well to the new image – the album did reach platinum status, but only two singles charted on the Hot 100 –  Alright peaked at #19 and I’m Real made it to #84.
  • The teenagers took some time off for a couple of years, and then returned to the studio in 1995 to record their third album, Young, Rich & Dangerous. It was released in January 1996 – four years and three albums into their career, Kelly and Smith were 17 years old. The album reached #15 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and two singles charted – Tonite’s tha Night reached #12 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot Rap Singles chart, while Live and Die for Hip Hop reached #72 and #11 respectively.
  • And just like that – they were done. They finished school, with Kelly studying music mixing and Smith studying marketing and business management. Kelly founded a record company called C Connection Records, and Smith was the founder of One Life Entertainment. The duo performed occasionally together in the following years. Meanwhile, Dupri’s So So Def Recordings record label became a major player in hip-hop and R&B music.
  • In 2013, Kris Kross reunited to perform at So So Def’s 20th anniversary celebration. Their performance was well received, but there would be no more Kris Kross appearances – Chris Kelly died of a drug overdose in May that year. Smith started his own art and lifestyle brand called Urbane Muse.
  • Quite the story! Here’s the video to Jump – the boys don’t even look thirteen!

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