Kevin Smith, aka Lovebug Starski, a DJ and rapper who is widely credited with coining the term hip-hop, died of a heart attack Thursday in Las Vegas, his manager says. He was 57.
Born in 1960 in the Bronx borough of New York City, Starski was a key member of the 1970s hip-hop movement along with Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. As Starski recounted it to music journalist Peter Scholtes, the term came about during a farewell party for a friend who was going into the military when he and Keith Cowboy of Grandmaster Flash’s Furious Five were playfully imitating a drill sergeant calling off marching orders.
He later used the term at parties where he DJ’ed, and it was then adopted by the Sugarhill Gang on their groundbreaking 1979 single “Rapper’s Delight,” which is considered to be the first modern hip-hop recording.
Starski was the house DJ at Disco Fever, the club portrayed in the 1985 film Krush Groove, until the late 1980s.
Starski would eventually release the early singles — under the name Little Starsky at the time — "Gangster Rock" and "Dancin' Party People."
Chuck D, head of Public Enemy, described Starski to HipHopDX as "the first double trouble threat in hip-hop and rap music."
“Lovebug Starski was A DJ, MC and innovator,” Chuck told DX on Thursday. “A pioneer who excelled before and after the recording line of ’79, the year when rap records began. He was the first double trouble threat in Hip Hop and rap music. He DJ’ed for the great MCs and MC’ed with the great DJs. Besides Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Lovebug Starski was one of the few that took his legendary street records status into the recording world.”
Starski preceded the big paydays that artists would later begin to earn from the culture he helped to pioneer. But his name still rang out in rhymes well into the '90s; he's forever immortalized in the opening verse to Notorious B.I.G.'s popular 1994 single, "Juicy."
"Who ever thought that hip-hop would take it this far?" Biggie raps in a line, underscored with unintended irony, before giving props to some of New York's seminal DJs. "Peace to Ron G, Brucie B, Kid Capri, Funkmaster Flex, Lovebug Starski."
Reactions to Starski's death poured in from the hip hop community.
Rest in Peace to one of the pioneer originators of Hip Hop the BX legend Lovebug Starski.— R.A. the Rugged Man (@RAtheRuggedMan) February 9, 2018
Damn. RIP Lovebug Starski. 😞— Crime Rhyme Houdini (@JustBlaze) February 9, 2018
Some terrible news: hip-hop legend Lovebug Starski has died suddenly and unexpectedly in Las Vegas at age 60. ☹️ Very sad. The man was a gifted entertainer, a warm, generous soul. He had been rocking Vegas venues and joined KRS-One on stage last week. Rest peacefully good sir. pic.twitter.com/kHggNAbIsS— Jonathan Shecter (@SheckyGreen) February 9, 2018
We Lost One Of Our Greatest Pioneers Of Hip Hop...— DJ Premier (@REALDJPREMIER) February 9, 2018
He Is Also Known As One Of The People Who Came Up With The Name "HIP HOP" Aside From Another Legend "Keith Cowboy" Of "The Furious 5"...
Salute To All The Pioneers and Condolences To His Family.#HipHop pic.twitter.com/AH4bNrSIOg
I'm tired of pioneer after pioneer passing then out come the pour down of memorabilia, ITS OK to pour out the memories of Hip Hop FOUNDING generations BEFORE THEY DIE!!!!— Monie Love (@DaRealMonieLove) February 9, 2018