Lovebug Starski, early hip hop pioneer, and one of the men credited with inventing the phrase “hip hop,” has passed away.
Starski, born Kevin Smith, died Thursday afternoon of a heart attack in Las Vegas. He was 57-years-old.
Starski was a DJ and rapper who was at the forefront of the birth of hip hop in the 70s. He is often given credit for naming hip-hop. Starski told City Pages in 2006 that he came up with the term at a party. His friend was heading to the military, and Starski said he began mocking him by chanting, “hip, hop, hip, hop, hip, hop,” like a drill sergeant.
Soon, it became a call and response he did with Keith Cowboy of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to get partygoers hyped.
“I’d say the ‘hip,’ he’d say the ‘hop.’ And then he stopped doing it, and I kept doing it,” Starski said. It wasn't long before the phrase was adopted by The Sugarhill Gang in the iconic track “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979, according to NPR.
The Bronx native was also a rapper, and released his own music including the singles “Gangster Rock” and “Dancin’ Party People.”
Years later, Notorious B.I.G. paid homage to Starski along with other hip-hop greats in his song "Juicy," saying, “Peace to Ron G, Brucie B, Kid Capri, Funkmaster Flex, Lovebug Starski.”
The hip-hop world is in mourning, and full of new tributes to Starski.
“Lovebug Starski was a DJ, MC and innovator," Public Enemy’s Chuck D told Hip Hop DX. "A pioneer who excelled before and after the recording line of ’79, the year rap records were produced. 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 and The Furious Five, Lovebug Starski was one of the few that took his legendary street records status into the recording world.”
Admirers also paid their respects on social media:
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) February 9, 2018
We Lost One Of Our Greatest Pioneers Of Hip Hop…
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
— DJ Premier (@REALDJPREMIER) February 9, 2018
Aptly named, Lovebug Starski had love in his heart. He was one of the good guys, one of the legends, taken suddenly, taken too soon. We love you Lovebug. I know you’re already up there rockin’ that party in the next life! ????????
— Jonathan Shecter (@SheckyGreen) February 9, 2018
My friend, my student, my boy, Love Bug Starski… I just got the word — I could remember Kevin from Forest projects. He was always at my early Block Party’s he became an amazing DJ and Entertainer. I will say this, it’s between Kool Herc, Cowboy or Love Bug Starski was rockin the 70s word Hip-Hop. Starsky was amazing to watch on the Mic and Turntables. He came from my Stable he was so dope, I connected him with a DJ that wanted Hip-Hop flavor there came the Disco Giant Pete DJ Jones this in tandem with Petes sound system Ruled the Disco clubs in the 70s. Love Bug you will never be forgotten condolences to the family. Still cant believe it. Wow… #rip #lovebug #lovebugstarski