Joseph Calleja, better known in the music world as Joe C., died in his sleep Thursday night at his home in Taylor, Mich.; he was twenty-six. The Detroit rapper was best known for his work as part of part of the carnivalesque ensemble that was Kid Rock's backing group, Twisted Brown Trucker.
"I'm Not a Fucking Midgit!" read a t-shirt that Joe C. (who claimed to be three-foot-nine, but armed with "a ten-foot dick") wore during Kid Rock's performance at Woodstock in 1999. Though the term was frequently placed on the rapper due to his height, he actually suffered from celiac disease, a digestive disorder that placed him through the rigors of daily dialysis (for several hours each night) and a parade of medication.
A regular attendee at Kid Rock's Motor City performances, Joe C. joined Rock's entourage in 1994 after impressing Rock by reciting most of his lyrics. Joe C. played a small, but prominent role in Rock's breakthrough album, Devil Without a Cause, adding a memorable verse to the title track and appearing in Rock's video for "Cowboy," going mano y mano with fellow little fellow Gary Coleman. He also offered a take on "Kyle's Mom's a Big Bitch" to the soundtrack for South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut. Though he would take breaks from Rock's tours to take care of his health, Joe C. could be counted on to add his distinctive energy to some of Rock's higher profile performances including Woodstock, the 2000 Grammys and a World Wrestling Federation appearance.
"Family and friends are everything; without them, all of the fame and fortune means nothing," Kid Rock said in a statement. "We have lost a part of our family. Joey gave us and the world his love. He brought a smile to everyone who has ever known or seen him. In a world full of confusion, Joey made all of us laugh. He gave us the gift of joy. Joey, thank you. We will never forget you. We love you."
"Joe C. was an extraordinary inspiration," said Jason Flom, President of Lava Records, Rock's label. "He overcame tremendous adversity to become a great performer and a truly wonderful human being. Despite living with chronic pain, Joe C. never let his condition prevent him from living life to the fullest."
Rock intended to record an album by Joe C. for his Top Dog records, but there is no word yet on whether the two recorded sufficient material for a release.