Though it's been a great year for gangsta-rap nostalgia, this past weekend saw the loss of one of the Southland's pioneering figures in the rap game. Kevin Gulley, who performed as KMG the Illutstrator in the Pomona group Above the Law, passed away this weekend according to several sources, including the Twitter account of his longtime collaborator, the MC Kokane.
Above the Law were peers of N.W.A and one of the inventors of the gangsta-rap sound that paired suave productions with brash, violent lyrics. The group released eight albums in its 22-year career on the Ruthless, Death Row and Tommy Boy labels, among others, including early genre landmarks like 1990's "Livin' Like Hustlers" and 1993's "Black Mafia Life," which was relased less than two months after Dr Dre's genre watermark, "The Chronic."
The group scored two gold albums in its heyday, and Gulley's standout tracks with Above the Law included the beloved ATL/N.W.A posse track, "The Last Song" (link contains profanity), and also "Untouchable," "Murder Rap" and "Black Superman." Above the Law made credible claims to influencing much of the gangsta rap explosion that followed (and had strained relations with Dre, Snoop and other local peers afterward). The group also collaborated on the West Coast All-Stars track "We're All in the Same Gang" that espoused anti-violence activism amid the growing gang crisis in L.A. at the time.
Early details about Gulley's death, including the exact time and cause, weren't yet available Monday afternoon. Rap peers including MC Ren, Ice-T and Warren G paid tribute, while Kokane said of his passing "1 of the greatest MCz on da West has passed! My heart hurt so bad! On my life, I will keep his legacy Alive!! I'll miss U forever... RIP KMG."