Don Newkirk, a musician and producer remembered for his collaboration with De La Soul, has reportedly died. He was 56.
KIRO reports that hip-hop artist Rahiem announced Newkirk’s passing on Friday (Nov. 25), which Newkirk’s family members confirmed on social media but did not reveal the cause of death.
“With a heavy heart i announce my brother Don Newkirk’s transitioning. My condolences go out to his family. Don Newkirk was one of the first R&B artists signed to Defjam records. May he S.I.P,” Rahiem, of the Furious Five, posted on Facebook.
Newkirk’s niece, Ktasha Hardge, wrote on Facebook Saturday (Nov. 26) that she attended an event with him and her mother (Newkirk’s elder sister) the previous week.
“I remember saying to my mom when she and I left, that I forgot to hug my Uncle goodbye. But I know that he knew I loved him and we were close,” Hardge stated. “Never felt like we skipped a beat even at times when we had long gaps in between our communication.”
De La Soul also paid tribute to Newkirk.
“Every since high school, we all knew Don Newkirk was undoubtedly a special kind. Fearless in expression and just a positive, talented vessel destined for success. His voice was the final cherry on top that closed our album 3ft High and Rising,” the group posted to Instagram.
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Newkirk did a series of voiceovers on De La Soul’s 1989 debut, Three Feet High and Rising, according to HipHopDX. He followed that with his own solo album debut, Funk City, on Def Jam Records subsidiary, OBR/Columbia Records. The album produced a pair of singles, “I Desire” and “Sweat You.”
“Funk City was like in a mode of me experimenting, learning instrumentation and learning how to use my voice in a different way other than just rapping,” Newkirk told AllHipHop last year. “Because I was never a singer. I was always an MC. But I just felt like I could express what I was trying to save better with melody back then. So it came out more so as ‘Funk City,’ which I think is dope because it gave people a whole different element of me. And just that whole time of like what was going on our crew.”
Newkirk continued: “Maybe I would have had more success if I had stuck to emceeing, being the 3 Feet High and Rising came out and Gas Face [by 3rd Bass] was about to come out. And then I was pretty much in the Native Tongues camp but not really a Native Tongue, more so because I was singing than spitting. But I’m glad that it did go down the way it went down because it created this legacy that I’m only now realizing, has made an effect that I didn’t even know from back then because we didn’t have internet.”
He later formed the experimental group BROOKZILL! with producer Prince Paul, Digable Planets’ Ladybug Mecca and Rodrigo Brandão. They released an album in 2016 named Throwback to the Future.
Here are other celebrity tributes to Newkirk.