Musician Don Newkirk reportedly passed away this week, although no cause of death has been revealed. Rahiem of the Furious Five shared a Facebook post on Friday (November 25) confirming his death.
“It is with a heavy heart I announce the transitioning of my brother Don Newkirk,” he wrote. “Fifty-six years young. Don Newkirk was among the first R&B artists signed to Def Jam records. My condolences go out to his family. S.I.P bro.” He later told AllHipHop, “One of our close friends called me and told me that Don’s daughter called him and told him.”
Newkirk was well known for his voice-overs on albums such as De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising and the 3rd Bass’ song “The Gas Face” from the group’s 1989 debut, The Cactus Album. Around the same time, he dropped a solo album called Funk City via OBR/Columbia Records, a subsidiary of Def Jam Records. The album spawned the singles “I Desire” and “Sweat You.”
Speaking to AllHipHop last year, Newkirk reflected on his journey and the impact he made on both R&B and Hip-Hop.
“Funk City was like in a mode of me experimenting, learning instrumentation and learning how to use my voice in a different way other than just rapping,” Newkirk said at the time. “Because I was never a singer. I was always an MC. But I just felt like I could express what I was trying to save better with melody back then. So it came out more so as Funk City, which I think is dope because it gave people a whole different element of me. And just that whole time of like what was going on our crew.
‘Maybe I would have had more success If I had stuck to emceeing, being the 3 Feet High and Rising came out and ‘Gas Face’ was about to come out. And then I was in that whole camp, pretty much in the Native Tongues camp but not really a Native Tongue, more so because I was singing than spitting. But I’m glad that it it did go down the way it went down because it created this legacy that I’m only now realizing, has made an effect that I didn’t even know from back then because we didn’t have internet.”
In 2016, Newkirk joined Prince Paul (Stetsasonic, De La Soul), Ladybug Mecca (Digable Planets) and Rodrigo Brandão as a member of BROOKZILL!, a short-lived but potent experimental project. The group released one album, Throwback To The Future, and then went their separate ways. Four year later, again linked up with Prince Paul to compose the score for the Netflix documentary, Who Killed Malcolm X.
AllHipHop sends its condolences to Newkirk’s family, friends and fans. Check out a few of the reactions below.