Pioneering Rap Group Whodini Loses Member Ecstasy — Here’s How Their Music Will Live Forever
Whodini member John “Ecstasy” Fletcher has passed away. On Wednesday (December 23), Whodini’s de facto leader Jalil Hutchins shared a Facebook post that read, “Pray for our family. Today is a dark day.” While the post was purposely vague, closer inspection of the comment section revealed Ectasy has indeed passed on.
Several Hip Hop luminaries also confirmed his passing on social media, including Questlove, Chuck D and A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip. No immediate cause of death has been disclosed.
Hailing from New York City, Whodini was formed in 1982 and became widely known for several classic Hip Hop songs such as “Funky Beat,” “Friends,” “Freaks Come Out At Night,” “One Love” and “Five Minutes Of Funk.” They were also among the first groups to incorporate R&B into their music, laying the foundation for New Jack Swing.
Whodini has released six studio albums throughout the course of their career and 14 of their singles have charted on Billboard. Four albums of the group were certified Platinum by Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) thanks to “Friends,” which hit No. 87 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In addition to 1983’s self-titled debut, 1984’s Escape and 1986’s Back In Black, Whodini’s music will live on in the countless Hip Hop songs that have sampled the pioneering group. To honor Ecstasy, HipHopDX has complied 10 songs that pulled from Whodini’s vault.
“If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)” featuring Lauryn Hill is often considered peak Nas. The song arrived in 1996 and captivated Hip Hop fans with its infectious hook and Nasty Nas’ impeccable verses. The track samples snippets of the 1984 Escape song “Friends” throughout the nearly five-minute effort. Produced by Trackmasters, “If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)” first appeared Nas’ It Was Written album and also features a sample of Kurtis Blow’s 1985 Krush Groove hit of the same name.
Kanye West headed back to the ’80s for “Real Friends” featuring Ty Dolla $ign from The Life of Pablo album. As suggested by the title, the song once again samples “Friends” from the aforementioned Escape album.
Eazy-E’s debut solo single came in the form of the glorified street anthem “Boyz N The Hood,” which took a few notes from Whodini’s “I’m A Ho” from 1986’s Back In Black. Released in March 1987, the single was a local hit and subsequently reissued on N.W.A’s EP and on the unauthorized compilation album N.W.A. and the Posse.
Jermaine Dupri and Ludacris knocked it out of the park with 2001’s “Welcome To Atlanta,” an homage to their beloved Atlanta city. Produced by Dupri, the song took notes from Whodini’s “Five Minutes of Funk,” which also appeared on Escape, as well as The Miracles 1974 single “Do It Baby.”
The Marc Klasfeld-directed video was like a tour around the ATL and featured cameo appearances from a host of Atlanta-bred artists, including Lil Jon, Lil Bow Wow, MC Shy D, Da Brat, T.I., Monica, Ying Yang Twins and CeeLo Green. The track peaked at No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 15 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop chart.
From the moment the beat drops, it’s clear the 2Pac track “Soon As I Get Home” pays tribute to Whodini thanks to the sample of “Five Minutes of Funk.” The track, which also features Yaki Kadafi of the Outlawz, appeared on the 2006 posthumous release Pac’s Life and found the late gangsta rap legend reflecting on his trials and tribulations with, “Tryin’ to pay my debt for all my sins/These is penitentiary times/Be so heavy on my mind/At times it’s like I’m livin’ just to die.”
Renowned West Coast Hip Hop group The Pharcyde released “Passin’ Me By” as part of 1992’s Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde. Produced by J-Swift, the nostalgic ’90s Hip Hop track samples eight different songs, including Whodini’s “Friends,” Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 single “Are You Experienced?” and Weather Report’s 1973 song “125th Street Congress.”
“It’s a huge loss when we lose a legend in our world of Hip Hop and time just keeps on going,” Slimkid3 tells HipHopDX. “But before it takes off, there are memories to reflect upon and I remember Whodini being something mesmerizing to me and my crew. Growing up as a battle dancer, I remember all of Whodini’s cuts getting us active and into the groove. We felt unstoppable when their music played, crushing whoever was in our way.
“The song ‘Friends’ was an anthem for us all in the Hip Hop dance scene, as it meant so much to us. The words were classic and always seemed to fit. There was always the question … ‘Friends! How many of us have them?’ That was the chant that will ring in our hearts, minds and souls forever.”
Dr. Dre’s explosive seminal solo album The Chronic arrived in December 1992, properly introducing fellow West Coast rapper Snoop Dogg (the then 21-year-old rapper previously appeared with Dre on “Deep Cover” in April 1992). “A N-gga Witta Gun,” one of 16 tracks on the album, also borrowed from Whodini’s “Friends.”
Co-written by Dre, The D.O.C. and Snoop, the song includes snippets form “Big Sur Suite” by Johnny “Hammond” Smith and “Who’s the Man (With the Master Plan)” by The Kay Gees. The Chronic was certified platinum by the RIAA in 1993 and sold over 5.7 million copies worldwide as of 2015.
Dr. Octagon — comprised of Kool Keith, Dan The Automator and DJ Qbert — burst onto the scene with their weird, otherworldly Hip Hop debut Dr. Octagonecologyst in 1996. “Earth People” was produced by Automator and finds Kool Keith musing about “supersonic bionic robot voodoo power” and “octagon oxygen aluminum intoxicants.” The track samples, yep, “Friends.”
Black Eyed Peas has morphed from underground Hip Hop trio to pop sensation with the addition of vocalist Fergie and back to a Hip Hop trio, albeit a more famous one. During their pop run, they secured a massive hit in 2003 with “Where Is The Love” featuring Justin Timberlake. The track samples Whodini’s “One Love” track from Back In Black and peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Nas dropped “One Love” in 1994 as the fifth single from his celebrated debut studio album Illmatic. Produced by Q-Tip, who also contributed vocals for the chorus line, the track samples Whodini’s song of the same name.
Nas told Rolling Stone in an interview, “Q-Tip used to come and hang out with me in my projects from time to time. I remember him coming out there and hanging out, and I remember him letting me hang out at his session when he was working on Midnight Marauders. I thought he was just the most incredible, so to have him producing my album, for him to even do the chorus for me is a blessing.”
50 Cent and The Game teamed up for “Westside Story” in 2004, Game’s debut single. Produced by both Dr. Dre and Scott Storch, and co-written by Mike Elizondo, Dre, Storch, Game and Fiddy, the song debuted at No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 93. The track samples Whodini’s “The Freaks Come Out At Night” from Escape and takes a grim look at West Coast gang culture.
HipHopDX sends our condolences to Whodini and all those who loved and cared about Ecstasy.