Legendary Hip-Hop Duo Kriss Kross Lost a Member When Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly Died in 2013

Some legends never die, so Kris Kross’s Chris Kelly lives on in our hearts. But what really happened to him?

Jamie Lerner - Author

Jul. 10 2024, Published 9:50 a.m. ET

Chris Kelly and Chris Smith in Kris Kross school photo
Source: Getty Images

If you think back to the iconic songs of the '90s, nothing comes to mind faster than “Jump” by Kris Kross. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 when it came out in 1992 for eight weeks, holding “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Under the Bridge,” and more classic singles at the No. 2 spot. But we remember little about the hip-hop duo behind it, which consisted of then-13-year-old Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly and 12-year-old Chris “Daddy Mac” Smith.

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Chris Kelly, known also as Mac Daddy, grew up alongside Chris Smith in Atlanta. The pair became friends in first grade and were discovered at the Greenbriar Mall in 1990 by Jermaine Dupri, who founded the So So Def label after signing Kris Kross. Now, their legacy lives on despite Chris Kelly’s untimely death as an Amsterdam music festival named after them continues on for the 13th year. So what happened to Chris Kelly?

Kris Kross performs on the Michael Jackson tour (1992)
Source: Getty Images
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What happened to Chris Kelly from Kris Kross? His cause of death was an overdose in 2013.

It’s no surprise that Kelly struggled with substance abuse when he and Smith became worldwide phenomenons with “Jump” when they were just pre-teens. They spent their teenage years working and touring after the song’s success as their debut album, "Totally Krossed Out," was propelled to multi-platinum status.

They toured alongside Michael Jackson on the European leg of his 1992 Dangerous World Tour and inspired a video game titled Kris Kross: Make My Video. Their second album in 1993, "Da Bomb," was also certified platinum, and their 1996 album, "Young, Rich, & Dangerous," was certified gold.

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Chris Kelly and Chris Smith in Kris Kross portrait shoot (1992)
Source: Getty Images

While working on their music careers, Kelly and Smith also went to school at Woodward Academy, where Kelly studied mix engineering, which led him to found C Connection Records. With all of the money, fame, and pressure to study and work full-time, it’s easy to get lost in the world of drugs and partying, where drugs are easily accessible.

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Although the duo continued performing together following the peak of their career, they played their last show in their hometown on Feb. 23, 2013, for the 20th anniversary of So So Def. Two months later, Chris Kelly died of a drug overdose.

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His family stated that he had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction throughout his life, and he had actually gone home to deal with the aftermath of a night of partying. Kelly’s mother, Donna Kelly Pratte, and Kelly’s uncle told police that he had taken “speedballs” the night before his death, which typically contain a risky dose of cocaine and heroin.

Donna had allegedly taken Kelly home to help him recover, although he complained of feeling nauseous before he passed out. Paramedics found him unresponsive on April 29, 2013, and brought him to the Atlanta Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on May 1, 2013, at 5 p.m. He was just 34 years old.

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Kris Kross final performance at So So Def anniversary (2013)
Source: Getty Images

The Fulton County medical examiner concluded through an autopsy that Kelly had officially died of an overdose by accident. They found heroin, cocaine, ethanol, hydrocodone, and alprazolam in his system. Mixing alcohol (ethanol) with hydrocodone can often be a deadly combination, especially with a speedball.

Friends, family, fans, and peers quickly shared their condolences and have often found ways of honoring Mac Daddy’s legacy.

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