Grammy-winning hip-hop collective Arrested Development is mourning the death of Baba Oje, the group's longtime spiritual elder, who died at age 87 on Friday (Oct. 26) following a long battle with acute leukemia.
"Hip-Hop culture just lost a soldier. #RIPBABAOJE," group leader Speech wrote in a tribute to Oje on Saturday (Oct. 27). "BABA OJE the elder from the 2x Grammy Award winning group ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT passed this morning at 4am after fighting acute Leukemia, he was 86 years old. Baba was the oldest member of any hip-hop collective and his mere presence in rap spoke volumes for the genre and for a generation looking for symbolic wisdom and answers. He was an activist for the homeless, a military veteran, a world traveler, spiritual advisor to the group, strict vegan, dancer, vocalist and avid roller skater."
Speech said that Oje's friends and family are planning a funeral service for him on Friday (Nov. 2). The leader of the sprawling rap crew founded in Atlanta in 1988 as a response to the graphic gangsta rap of the era described meeting Oje when he was a college student. Recalling how Oje would hang "with the young dudes," Speech said his mentor was "always super cool and always willing to talk to the youth! I gathered up the nerve to ask him to be in my hip hop group, he at first said no. But he later reconsidered when he thought about the fact that a young black man was striving to start a positive rap thing. However, we both found out that this partnership was bigger than we even knew."