Gravediggaz Rapper Too Poetic Dies Of Cancer

Gravediggaz rapper Too Poetic (real name: Anthony Berkeley) died Sunday at a Los Angeles hospital after a long fight with colon cancer. He was 35. Poetic had been at work on a new Gravediggaz album, "

Gravediggaz rapper Too Poetic (real name: Anthony Berkeley) died Sunday at a Los Angeles hospital after a long fight with colon cancer. He was 35. Poetic had been at work on a new Gravediggaz album, "Nightmare in A-Minor," which is tentatively due for an Aug. 23 release on Echo International. The set includes one track, "Burn Baby Burn," which deals specifically with the artist's cancer struggles.

Poetic formed Gravediggaz in 1993 with Wu-Tang Clan principal RZA, producer Prince Paul, and ex-Stetasonic member Frukwan. The group's dark 1994 debut, "Six Feet Deep," was an immediate hit with listeners, debuting at No. 6 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and featuring the single "Diary of a Madman," which hit No. 8 on Billboard's Hot Rap Singles tally.

1997's "The Pick, the Sickle, and the Shovel" was no less musically ominous, and fared just as well at retail, debuting at No. 7 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The two sets have sold more than 700,000 units combined in the U.S., according to SoundScan.

RZA did not contribute to the new album, but Prince Paul lent a hand on a number of cuts. In a statement, Frukwan saluted his partner's will to carry on to the end. "Poetic was the brother I never had," he said. "I love him dearly and I always will. We always had each other's back. He did this album despite this illness and showed a true love for hip-hop against all odds."

"I was honored to have worked with him," Prince Paul added. "Whatever he has done musically is going to live on, and I am proud to have been a part of that."

Berkeley's widow is planning an upcoming memorial service in New York. Those wishing to make donations to assist payment of Berkeley's substantial medical bills may contact: Meridian Entertainment, 1 Orchard St., Jersey City, N.J. 07306.