While Kris Kross' chart star burned relatively quickly in the early- to mid-'90s, it burned brightly, with the duo scoring one of rap's, and the entire rock era's, biggest hits with its debut single, "Jump."
The pair's Chris Kelly died Wednesday (May 1) at age 34. Kelly and Chris Smith comprised the twosome.
Having been discovered in 1990 by 18-year-old rapper/producer/songwriter Jermaine Dupri while they were shopping for sneakers at an Atlanta mall, according to Fred Bronson's "Billboard Book of Number One Hits," Kris Kross blasted onto the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 61 the week of April 4, 1992, with "Jump," which Dupri wrote and produced. The song's title befitted its chart fortunes: it soared to No. 12 the next week, then to No. 3, before beginning an eight-week command. By the time its reign wrapped, "Jump" was, at the time, one of only 11 songs to top the Hot 100 for at least eight weeks, dating to the chart's launch on Aug. 4, 1958. No other rap song had led the chart for so long. And no title had led for such a length since the Police's "Every Breath You Take," which also dominated for eight weeks, in 1983. "Jump" ranked as the third-biggest hit of 1992 when Billboard ranked the year's top 100 hits that December.
"Jump" additionally topped Billboard's Rap Songs chart for five weeks and rose to No. 2 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Parent album "Totally Krossed Out" crowned the Billboard 200 for two weeks amid a 65-week chart run, and led Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums for six weeks; it appeared on that chart for 55 weeks. The set has sold 4 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Dupri told Bronson that he got the idea for "Jump" at a concert. "I watched the crowd. I watched how people were just jumping," he said. "Rappers had been doing it and I said we should make a record like this.
"I went home and wrote the song in an hour."
While Kris Kross never repeated the level of Hot 100 or Billboard 200 success that it enjoyed with its debut single and album, the pair remained a rap and R&B/hip-hop force through the mid-'90s. 1993's "Da Bomb" debuted and peaked at No. 2 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, as did 1996's "Young, Rich and Dangerous," the twosome's last studio release. The sets (which peaked at Nos. 13 and 15 on the Billboard 200, respectively) have sold 702,000 and 506,000 copies, respectively, bringing the act's career U.S. album sales to 5.2 million, according to SoundScan.
Following "Jump," Kris Kross scored three more No. 1s on Rap Songs: "Warm It Up" (three weeks, 1992), "Alright," featuring Super Cat (two weeks, 1993), and "Tonite's Tha Night" (five weeks, 1996). The tracks rose to Nos. 3, 8 and 6, respectively, on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
Dupri told Bronson that Kris Kross' appeal was evident from that first meeting that netted the pair far more than new sneakers. "They were real fresh. People were paying attention," he said.
"I said, 'If you have that captivation over people right now, if you had a record out, this might be ridiculous'."