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Hip-Hop Pioneer Rammellzee Dies at 50

Artist and 'Wild Style' breakout collaborated with Jean-Michel Basquiat and inspired the Beastie Boys

June 30, 2010 6:35 PM ET

Hip-hop pioneer and street art legend Rammellzee, best known for his landmark 1983 12" single "Beat Bop" and a memorable performance in Wild Style, passed away Monday, June 28th at the age of 50. The news was first revealed by Fab 5 Freddy, who also starred in Wild Style, on his Twitter; the cause of Rammellzee's death is still unknown.

Rammellzee and K-Rob's "Beat Bop," a 10-minute-long hip-hop track now regarded as one of the most revered songs of rap's early era, was produced by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who also drew the cover art, resulting in the 12" becoming a major collector's item. The song served as an inspiration for the Beastie Boys, who would go on to sample "Beat Bop" twice over the course of their own careers, in the tracks "Jimmy James" and "B-Boys Makin.'" In recent years, Rammellzee focused on creating art instead of music, although he did make time to collaborate with avant-garde musician Bill Laswell, guitarist Buckethead and hip-hop collective Death Comet Crew.

Rammellzee's collaborator R-One remembered his friend on Ram's MySpace page. "As I type this, I'm numb from overwhelming sadness," he wrote. "As I carry the "R" you christened me with, I will make sure your legacy lives on...I will celebrate your life until I join you."

Check out a clip of Rammellzee's track "Beat Bop" below:

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