Chucky Thompson, one of the in-house producers (known as The Hitmen) whose ability to blend hip-hop and R&B at a pop scale helped Bad Boy Records become one of the preeminent labels of the ’90s, has died.
“It is with a very heavy heart that I can confirm the passing of Chucky Thompson,” his publicist Tamar Juda tells Billboard. “To anyone in his orbit, you know how generous he was with his energy, creativity and love. Both the music industry and the world has lost a titan.”
Producer and protege Young Guru also confirmed Thompson’s death on Instagram, writing “RIP to my mentor, my big brother, the man who changed my life forever… there will never be another you!!!!”
Hailing from Washington, D.C., Thompson was brought into the fold of the New York-based Bad Boy when a friend of his in Baltimore introduced him to a cousin who worked with Puff Daddy, who at the time had been dismissed from Uptown Records and was about to start his own label. “They didn’t have anyone up there that played a lot of different instruments,” Thompson recalled to You Know I Got Soul in 2011 of the Bad Boy team at the time. “It was either you played keyboards, or you just were a straight hip-hop producer/sampler, but I was all of those things. “
Thompson’s versatility made him an ideal collaborator, and he helped build the label’s in-house team up with fellow producers such as Easy Mo Bee and Rashad Smith. In 1994, he worked extensively on two multi-platinum-certified classic albums that would send Bad Boy into the stratosphere: Mary J. Blige’s sophomore set My Life and The Notorious B.I.G.’s debut LP Ready to Die. He wrote and produced on the majority of tracks on My Life, including the funky hits “Mary Jane (All Night Long)” and “You Bring Me Joy,” and co-manned the decks on three cuts, including the G-funk-influenced smash “Big Poppa” on Ready to Die. Thompson’s full-bodied production updated classic samples of artists including Rick James and the Isley Brothers for an R&B/hip-hop hybrid sound that helped to define the mid ’90s.
Hits with Bad Boy artists such as Total (“No One Else”) and Faith Evans (“You Used to Love Me”) continued for Thompson through the turn of the millennium — though his biggest single in the 21st century came outside the label’s family, with the cinematic “One Mic” for Nas in 2002. His credits grew more sporadic as the 21st century progressed, but he still appeared on albums from Busta Rhymes and Ne-Yo in the past decade, and remained a regular collaborator of Evans’ through the 2010s.
“A music legend for the DMV and the world,” wrote DJ Heat, house DJ for the Washington Mystics and Wizards basketball teams, in tribute to Thompson on Twitter. “Not only laced so many classic hits, but also continued to show so much love for the DC area. RIP Chucky Thompson.”