The untimely passing of Queens MC Chinx Drugz (born Lionel Pickens) has been a dark cloud over New York’s hip hop scene since the 31-year-old was murdered in Jamaica, Queens, on May 17.
Last night (July 15), Chinx's family and friends filled a private room in Manhattan’s Stage 48 to experience his debut album, Welcome to JFK, which will be released posthumously on August 14 through eOne Music.
The listening session was more celebratory than morbid as Chinx’s wife Janelli Caceres and their children soaked up the abundance of love and respect the packed house had for their late patriarch.
Host Shaheem Reid introduced the album as a classic before assuring the crowd that this would not be the last project we will hear from the late Coke Boys rapper. “One thing I want everybody to know is that Chinx's legacy will never die” said Reid. “We got ten more albums after this s**t… We gon’ rock forever with my brother!”
Emotions were high, but Reid maintained a positive vibe throughout the evening, confident that that’s what Chinx would have wanted for such a monumental milestone in his 15-year career. “I see a couple of little tears in the audience, but this is a joyous occasion,” said Reid. “Chinx worked infinite hours to put this first album out. And it’s right around the corner. I can definitely say I’m proud of my brother and what he’s accomplished.”
Attendees were treated to the premiere of the music video for Chinx's single “On Your Body” as well as unheard album cuts featuring Jeremih and Stack Bundles, another New York artist who’s life was taken before he could live up to his massive potential.
Gabrielle Peluso, VP of Marketing at eOne Music, who worked closely with both Chinx and Stack Bundles before their deaths, brought a few attendees to tears with a heartfelt speech about Chinx’s character and work ethic.
“This kid put in more work than any other rap artist that you heard right now,” said Peluso, holding back her own tears. “Anybody at the top of the charts right now has not put in any of the groundwork that this kid put in. The kid has been working his a** off. I have never met a more humble human being in my life. All he wanted to do was provide for his family…that’s all he cared about, was making sure that they were OK.”
Peluso emphasized how seriously Chinx took his craft and how unselfish he was about sharing the spotlight. “He put the work in,” Peluso said. “He didn’t take that [one-hit wonder] route. He really put his heart and his soul into this… 'Pop That' was [his] record a long time ago. So everybody knows he’s been doing it. And he’s been gracious enough to pass on his hits to other people. He really is the guy that should have been in the front seven years ago.”
Social media sensation Welvin Da Great was in attendance along with Brooklyn MC Skyzoo and countless other contributors to New York’s hip hop scene. Jeff and Eric Rosenthal from It’s the Real came to pay tribute to Chinx, telling BET.com about the lasting impression Chinx left on them.
“My brother and I were lucky enough to meet Chinx a couple of times; he was quick, great comedic timing and seemed like a really great person," said Jeff Rosenthal. "It was never a question that we'd come to pay our respects and, as longtime fans, enjoy his latest project.”
Chinx's camp embraced everyone for their support, grateful for their refusal to let the late rappers memory fade away. “A bunch of people on (Chinx’s) team — label execs at eOne, his longtime publicist, his friends — thanked my brother and I for coming,” said Jeff Rosenthal. “One said, 'I've been worried that people would forget and move on.' But for those of us who loved Chinx, his music lives.”
A portrait of Chinx painted by artist Allison Dayka was auctioned off for charity. A GoFundMe page created to support Chinx’s wife and children is still active, with over $10,000 of its $100,000 goal already raised.
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