Hip-Hop Pioneer Lovebug Starski Has Passed Away

Lovebug Starski is one of the Hip-Hop pioneers that Biggie Smalls shouts out in the opening verse to “Juicy.” According to author/filmmaker Nelson George, the Bronx, New York MC, DJ and producer is responsible for coining the early 1970s youth culture as “Hip-Hop.” He also was reportedly one of the first DJs who could rap while mixing, as well as branded the phrase, “Hip-Hop-you-don’t-stop.” For nearly 50 years, the artist born Kevin Smith and musical partners of DJ Hollywood and Brucie B, was tied to the music and culture. Today (February 8), sources close to Starski have confirmed that he has died in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to Forbes, he was 57 years old at the time of his death.

Founding editor of The Source magazine and Game Recordings Jonathan Schecter reported the news, having been with Lovebug Starski earlier this month:

In the post, he appears with Shecter, as well as contemporaries Caz and Busy Bee.

Like Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Caz, Lovebug Starski was a multi-talented artist who was able to apply his 1970s contributions to the culture to record contracts in the ’80s. Per an interview with Forbes published two years ago this week, Starski was Sugar Hill Records’ first choice, before they signed the Sugarhill Gang in the late ’70s. Lovebug had an existing contract in place that prevented him from inking with the New Jersey label run by the former Disco hit-maker. He was a resident at The Disco Fever nightclub, from Beat Street fame. He would later become a mainstay of Harlem World, another New York City Hip-Hop venue.

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Kurtis Blow told Wax Poetics about Lovebug’s multi-threat talent. “He was a great DJ, but he could rap really well too. He was a versatile DJ, meaning he could play in any market and play all kinds of beats. He was very talented and was the first person I saw DJ and rap at the same time.”

Following singles and work on the Rappin’ soundtrack and collaborations with Kurtis Blow and the late Larry Smith, Starski signed to CBS/Epic Records. There, he released House Rocker, including an Amityville Horror Show spoof that has gained popularity on Halloween playlists:

After his 1986 album, Starski reportedly battled legal troubles, leading to incarceration. In the 1990s, he reunited with his partner from The Fever nightclub, DJ Hollywood, and returned to the party. He may always be best known for his work as a New York City club DJ, and ambassador of Hip-Hop.

In 1998, on the Flip Squad DJ’s compilation by Funkmaster Flex, Biz Markie, the late Big Kap, Mark Ronson, Doo Wop, DJ Enuff, Cipha Sounds, and Mr. Cee, he appeared with Brucie B on “How Ya Like Us Now,” sampling Chuck Brown.

Starski’s ability to rap and mix simultaneously has been upheld by the likes of Large Professor and Edan.

Ambrosia For Heads extends condolences to the family and friends of Lovebug Starski.