John Fletcher of hip-hop trio Whodini died on Wednesday (Dec. 23), Billboard can confirm.
The artist, known by his stage name Ecstasy and recognizable from his signature Zorro hat, was 56. A cause of death has not yet been determined.
“The African and Native American ancestors have gathered around and chosen this day, during the Winter Solstice, Dec 23rd, 2020 to call upon a most endeared, generous, and sincere soul who graced The World’s heart through performance, hip-hop, family, children and grandchildren,” his family shared in a statement to Billboard. “John ‘Ecstasy’ Fletcher was a beloved man, the life partner to Deltonia and ex-husband to Carla, twin brother to Joseph, artist, friend, and lifetime performing partner to the Legendary Jalil of Whodini. Whodini set a hip-hop course of legendary status that we are all sure to pass on to our grandchildren. Please send love and prayers to our family, and with open hearts we ask the ancestors to cover his soul in peace and tranquility. Play his music if it moves you, and know he’ll be hearing you on his way home this day, Dec 23rd.”
“‘One Love’ to one of Hip Hop’s Greatest! There will never be another,” Jalil of Whodini added.
“A pillar. One of our foundational pieces. Our Temptations. Our Four Tops. Our Isley Brothers. A standard. That’s what Whodini was and is to us,” producer 9th Wonder mirrored. “Mr. John ‘Ecstasy’ Fletcher was a part of that standard. So many of us in this culture have taken away from him, Jalil, and Grandmaster Dee…..from words and lyrics, to the beats. They not only had songs that shaped our culture, but lyrics that became sayings. Friends…how many of us have them? One Love. It’s so many. Thank you Ecstasy. Thank you for the road you paved for the thousands and thousands of women and men who want to one day call themselves a rapper. May your spirit live on, forever.”
Brooklyn-based Whodini — which consisted of Fletcher, vocalist Hutchins and DJ Drew “Grandmaster Dee” Carter — formed in the early ’80s. The group started to make a name for itself with their 1982 single “Magic’s Wand,” the lead track off their self-titled debut album. The song peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, and was also the first rap song to feature an accompanying video. Their tune “Friends/Five Minutes of Funk” off sophomore album Escape, was the only one to enter the Billboard Hot 100, and peaked at No. 87.
Whodini’s sophomore album, 1984’s Escape, was certified platinum in 1987, and also peaked at No. 35 on the all-genre Billboard 200. The third and fourth studio albums — 1986’s Back in Black and 1987’s Open Sesame — peaked at Nos. 35 and 30, respectively.
News of Fletcher’s passing began circulating on Wednesday (Dec. 23), as luminaries from the music world remembered the artist on social media.
“One Love to Ecstasy of the Legendary #Whodini,” Questlove tweeted. “This man was legendary and a pivotal member of one of the most legendary groups in hip hop. This is sad man.”
“My God, this one hurts me so bad,I can’t even believe I’m posting this,” Jermaine Dupri tweeted along with a video of a young Ecstasy. “Ex you know I love you thank you for every word, every conversation every good time, may your soul Rest In Power.”
See how those in the music industry are remembering the artist below.
1987 I entered the @Defjam tour w PE. I tended to be nervous looking at 15000 fans in front of me every night. There were 2 MCS that directly mentored my calm that summer. 1 was @RealDougEFresh the other was Ecstacy of Whodini. Always there to reassure w advice tips #RestInBeats pic.twitter.com/UzCj5RN4ve
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) December 23, 2020
RIP to Ecstasy from https://t.co/MiqnKeBFeK of the most under appreciated voices in hip hop. Too many hits! Condolences to his fam ✨🙏🏾✨
— QTip (@QtipTheAbstract) December 23, 2020
Another blow in a bad year. John Fletcher aka Ex of #whodini has just passed. The trio, along with producer Larry Smith, made the first hip-hop records that black radio embraced. Personality, humor and hooks.
— Nelson George (@nelsongeorge) December 23, 2020
#RIPecstasy to the family & friends of the legendary Ecstasy from the landmark hiphop crew #Whodini. The 1st to make adult hop hop, w melodic, huge soundscapes & sex appeal 4 the ladies. SORELY MISSED! If you love (ruled the world by Nas) and other classics, THANK WHODINI ❤️👑✊🏾
— ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (@ADtheBand) December 23, 2020
The first hip hop show I ever attended was the Fresh Fest at the Greensboro Coliseum with Run DMC, Fat Boys, and Whodini. Rest In Peace, Ecstasy. One love.
— Phonte (@phontigallo) December 23, 2020