Whodini founding member John “Ecstasy” Fletcher has died at 56, the group’s Grand Master Dee told Variety. Questlove had announced the news earlier in the day. A cause of death has not been revealed. Alongside bandmates Jalil Hutchins and DJ/turntablist Grandmaster Dee, Ecstasy was part of the initial wave of hip-hop to emerge from New York City in the early 1980s.
Originally signed to Jive Records, Whodini’s self-titled debut album was released in 1982. It featured the Thomas Dolby–produced “Magic’s Wand,” which paid tribute to NYC hip-hop DJ John “Mr. Magic” Rivas and was the first hip-hop track ever to receive a music video. Their breakout album was 1984’s Escape, now widely regarded as a classic in both ’80s rap and dance music circles. That album produced multiple beloved songs, including “Five Minutes of Funk” and “The Freaks Come Out at Night.”
Ecstasy’s fashion signature was a Zorro-style hat, which could often be seen in Whodini photoshoots, videos, and live appearances. He and the other members of Whodini were part of the first major hip-hop tour, the Fresh Fest, performing alongside acts such as Run-D.M.C. and Kurtis Blow in 1984. Over the span of their career, the group notched a total of four platinum singles. Their final album Six was released in 1996.
Numerous artists, including Q-Tip, Chuck D, DJ Premier, and Sheila E. have paid tribute to Ecstasy. Remembering his friend, LL Cool J wrote, “One of the most important people in this culture to me.”