Kelly’s cause of death has yet to be determined, though a local police spokesperson speculated that a drug overdose may have been involved.
Along with bandmate Chris Smith, the 13-year-old Kelly was discovered in an Atlanta mall in 1991 by 18-year-old aspiring producer Jermaine Dupri, who went on to shepherd all the duo’s releases. Securing the group a deal with Ruffhouse Records, Dupri fashioned the act’s distinctive backwards clothes image and wrote and produced debut LP “Totally Krossed Out.”
Released in 1992, the record was a smash – first single “Jump” topped the chart for eight straight weeks, and the album eventually went quadruple platinum. Second single “Warm It Up” hit No. 1 on the rap singles chart, and a promo blitz saw the group also launch its own videogame and open for Michael Jackson on his “Dangerous” world tour.
Momentum slowed for 1993 follow-up “Da Bomb,” which topped out at No. 13 on the album chart yet still went platinum. After an inactive spell, the two released a third album, “Young, Rich and Dangerous,” to modest sales in 1996, though single “Tonite’s tha Night” topped the rap singles chart.
After fading from public consciousness, Kelly and Smith reunited this year to perform at a concert celebrating the 20th anniversary of Dupri’s So So Def label. Dupri paid tribute to Kelly on his website last night, calling him “a son I never had.”