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Kangol Kid, hip-hop pioneer, has died at 55

Kangol Kid, pictured in 2017 in New York City, has died at age 55 after being diagnosed with colon cancer.
Bennett Raglin
Getty Images for BET
Kangol Kid, pictured in 2017 in New York City, has died at age 55 after being diagnosed with colon cancer.

The influential rapper and UTFO member Shaun Shiller Fequiere, known by his stage name Kangol Kid, has died at the age of 55.

"I just wanna hear you again, another hug, another embarrassing kiss," the rapper's son T.Shaun Fequiere wrote in a Dec. 18 Instagram post confirming his death. The rapper's death comes after he announced he had been diagnosed with colon cancer in February 2021.

As a member of the hip-hop group UTFO, which stood for "UnTouchable Force Organization," Fequiere was part of a pioneering era of New York City rap in the early 1980s. Along with members Doctor Ice, Mix Master Ice, and Educated Rapper, who died in 2017, the Brooklyn group was best known for their 1984 hit song "Roxanne, Roxanne." The track ignited what was later known as the "Roxanne Wars" after rapper Roxanne Shante responded with her diss track "Roxanne's Revenge," which in turn led to dozens of other groups creating their own records responding to the song.

"When you think of hip-hop, hip-hop is a sport," Fequiere told AllHipHopTV in 2017 of the infamous rap beef. "A lot of breakdance is battle, rap is battle, DJs battle, but we were the first to battle on wax."

Before becoming a rapper, Fequiere began his career as a breakdancer working with fellow UTFO member Doctor Ice. The two performed as the Keystone Dancers and then danced for the hip-hop group Whodini before forming UTFO. "We don't want to be labeled as a rap group," Fequiere toldThe Washington Post in 1985. "We want to be labeled as a group that can rap. We want to do everything. We may come out with a country tune." UTFO even landed a performance on The Phil Donahue show in 1984, bringing breakdancing to a wider audience.

The rapper earned his name for wearing Kangol hats, a defining accessory in 1980s hip-hop, and ended up earning an endorsement deal with the brand. "It was my thing," Fequiere said in an interview with Hot 97. "The name just stuck. ... It was the hat the cool kids wore, and I deemed myself a cool kid by crowning myself with such a hat." One of Fequiere's Kangol hats would later become part of the collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.

In the months leading up to his death, Fequiere spoke openly about his experience with cancer, urging fans to get screened. He frequently shared updates about his health on Instagram and photos from his hospital bed with visitors from the hip-hop community, including rappers LL Cool J and fellow UTFO member Doctor Ice. In an interview earlier this year with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, he said: "The new look for hip-hop and cancer is to go get yourself checked out before it happens."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Hazel Cills
Hazel Cills is an editor at NPR Music, where she edits breaking music news, reviews, essays and interviews. Before coming to NPR in 2021, Hazel was a culture reporter at Jezebel, where she wrote about music and popular culture. She was also a writer for MTV News and a founding staff writer for the teen publication Rookie magazine.

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