Baba Oje, the spiritual elder of 1990s hip-hop group Arrested Development, died from leukemia on Oct. 26 at the age of 86.
Band frontman Speech, also known as Todd Thomas, paid tribute to the elder statesman on social media.
“Baba was the oldest member of any hip-hop collective and his mere presence in rap spoke volumes for the genre 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.”
Speech recalled admiring Oje’s life experience and activism. He also claimed Oje had been a military veteran in an Instagram post.
“I met Baba hanging with the young dudes while I was in college. He was always super cool and always willing to talk to the youth!” recalled Speech. “I gathered up the nerve to ask him to be in my hip-hop group.”
Arrested Development burst on to the music scene in 1992 with the release of seminal album “3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of…” Not only did it sell four million copies, it produced three Top 10 singles and helped the group nab the Grammy Award for Best New Artist the following year.
Baba didn’t rap or play an instrument but he was featured in videos and was the band’s spiritual center. He met Speech while both were in college and unbeknownst to the frontman, Baba had been best man at his parents’ wedding.
“I will miss our many talks, my dear friend,” group choreographer Montsho-Eshe,” wrote on Twitter. “Your energy and fiery spirit will be missed. … May your soul rest in power.”