When rappers Kris Kross released their first single, “Jump,” in 1992, their main claim to fame was precociousness: Mack Daddy and Daddy Mack were only 12. While youth—and a habit of wearing their clothes backwards—earned them notice, more was required to actually make their first record, Totally Krossed Out, a quadruple-platinum smash. Matt Diehl accounted for the twosome’s success in Vibe: “When Kris Kross first blew up, it wasn’t hard to see why. They had all the cuteness required of adolescent rappers, and that backwards-clothing business was a clever marketing touch. But where other juvenile crews like Another Bad Creation subsisted on minimal mike skills, familiar samples, and the novelty value of little kids acting like hardcore roughnecks, Kris Kross could flow.” Totally Krossed Out also won awards and critical acclaim, laying a solid foundation for a follow-up album, which would challenge the rappers to rely more on skills and less on cuteness.
Mack Daddy and Daddy Mack—Mack is street parlance for pimp—are the crisscrossed hip-hop handles
Members include Daddy Mack (born Chris Smith c. 1979 in Atlanta, GA) and Mack Daddy (born Chris Kelly c. 1979 in Atlanta).
“Discovered” in an Atlanta mall c. 1991 by writer-producer Jermaine Dupri; recorded first single, “Jump,” 1992; released album Totally Krossed Out, Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1992; released Da Bomb, Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1993.
Awards: American Music awards, 1992, for favorite new R & B artist and favorite hip-hop artist; Jack the Rapper “Yes You Can” Award for Young Entertainers, 1992; double-platinum single for “Jump” and gold singles for “Warm it Up,” 1992, and “Alright,” 1993; multiplatinum album for Totally Krossed Out, 1992, and gold album for Da Bomb, 1993.
Addresses: Record company —Ruffhouse/Columbia, 2100 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404.
of Chris Kelly and Chris Smith, respectively, both of whom were born in Atlanta, Georgia, in the late 1970s. The Chrises have been friends since early childhood. They were “discovered” in the early 1990s by an equally precocious producer, Jermaine Dupri, who was only 18 at the time. Dupri was formerly a dancer for rap legends Run-D.M.C. He noticed Chris and Chris in an Atlanta mall, where he was struck by their look, which affected the extreme bagginess of hip-hop culture. Dupri proceeded to turn the pair into a polished rap duo; he would also write and produce all of the music on their first album. When Totally Krossed Out was released, in fact, Eric Thumauer declared in Details, “The real star ... is producer Jermaine Dupri, who provides the infectious swing beats that set the duo apart.”
The single “Jump” preceded the album; it was an instant hit, taking the top of the pop charts and eventually going double platinum. Reviewers couldn’t seem to extol the virtues of the song enough, several remarking on its power to influence human behavior. Bönz Malone noted in Spin that “everytime it’s played, the crowd gets savage and starts doing what these kids demand!” When Kris Kross appeared on the comedy series In Living Color in March of 1992, a reviewer for People reported, “The effect their music had on the In Living Color ensemble, causing people more than twice their age to pogo deliriously around the stage. In a 1993 review of Kris Kross’s second record, Da Bomb, People still waxed enthusiastic over “Jump,” recalling how it “pulsed with exuberance and attitude.”
The album Totally Krossed Out took the Number One spot on Billboard’s rap and R & B charts; it exceeded the sales of “Jump” and produced a second hit single, “Warm it Up,” which earned a gold record. A slew of award nominations followed, resulting in two American Music Awards, including favorite new R & B artist and favorite new hip-hip artist, and the Jack the Rapper “Yes You Can” Award for Young Entertainers. The media went nuts for Kris Kross; they appeared on a range of television shows, including The Arsenio Hall Show and the sitcom A Different World (and it was almost impossible to turn on MTV without seeing the youngsters jumping around in their video). They mounted two tours in 1992, one a spot opening for superstar Michael Jackson in Europe, the other their own circuit in North America. In 1993, they would market their talent and fame to the soft drink Sprite, filming slickly produced television commercials for the company.
In response to their overall package, People described the Kris Kross sound as one that “combines hard rap rhythms and textures with bubble-gum pop melodies”; the magazine also predicted the duo’s popularity on the charts and with audiences, commenting, “Their best trick is inserting catchily melodic refrains in the middle of their free-stylin’ raps. That should help them kross over to pop.” Indeed, despite the undeniably teen-oriented melodic content of their work, Totally Krossed Out did display a hard edge, according to Details writer Thurnauer, who maintained, “On their debut LP, these prodigies steer clear of the playground to trade rhymes about gang life (‘A Real Bad Dream’), after-hours escapades (‘Party’), and the neighborhood scene (‘Lil’ Boys in da Hood’) with all the stone-cold attitude of M.C.s twice their age.” Edge would be what Kris Kross needed more of as they started to grow out of childhood.
Almost inevitably, mixed reviews greeted the release of 1993’s Da Bomb —though it duly went gold within a few months of its release. The first single, “Alright,” climbed as high as Number 15 on several charts, including the Hot 100, R & B, and Rap Singles. The challenge facing Da Bomb, also produced and largely written by Dupri, was not simply that the kids were growing up—rendering their marketability as pint-size wonders less compelling—but that their relative youth was inconsistent with the emergence of hard-core or gangsta rap as the dominant rap genre; at fourteen, Daddy Mack and Mack Daddy were getting too mature to be perceived as rap moppets, but at the same time were unable to compete with grown men who gave the gangsta stance unquestionable credibility. People echoed other media in noting “One year later, Mack Daddy and Daddy Mack are 14, their once squeaky voices have deepened, and they’re not so cute anymore. In fact, Da Bomb isn’t so much fun. In an effort to show that they are more than rappers in baggy pants, Kris Kross mimics every identifiable hip-hop style without settling on their own.”
Still, the more developed Kris Kross did manage to convince several reviewers, including Billboard’s Craig Rosen, who averred that Da Bomb “does feature a newfound street edge.” For his part, Vibe’s Diehl cautioned that “Kris Kross is ultimately more effective on a cassingle than over the course of a whole CD,” but he was able to muster some positive impressions: “Where Da Bomb improves greatly on the inconsistent Totally Krossed Out is in Kris Kross’s ever-growing microphone techniques—check out Mack Daddy’s rat-a-tat-tat delivery on the title track.” Rap scribe Havelock Nelson remarked in Rolling Stone, “They sound threatening, even though their chat is strictly PG.” Daddy Mack explained the reason for keeping Kris Kross rhymes PG, despite the harm this would undoubtedly do their gangsta image, stating in Billboard, “We understand that kids are going to want to listen to our music.... There’s not that many groups out right now that kids can listen to that are hard,’ cause they use profanity on their albums. We just want to be a group the kids can listen to.” Caught in the crossfire of balancing their young audience’s needs and the decidedly adult values of the rap world, Kris Kross soldiered on through the troubling teen years.
Totally Krossed Out (includes “Jump,” “A Real Bad Dream,” “Party,” and “Lil’ Boys in da Hood”), Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1992.
Da Bomb (includes “Alright”), Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1993.
Billboard, August 21, 1993.
Details, July 1992.
Entertainment Weekly, February 12, 1993.
People, May 25, 1992; August 23, 1993.
Rolling Stone, October 14, 1993.
Source, October 1993.
Spin, September 1992.
Vibe, September 1993.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from Ruffhouse/Columbia Records, 1993.
—Ondine E. Le Blanc
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