Kevin “Lovebug Starski” Smith, an icon of the New York hip-hop scene of the late 1970’s, and who may have been the one to originate the phrase “hip-hop,” has died at the age of 57 in his Las Vegas home, as confirmed by his manager.
Born Kevin Smith, he would later gain prominence through his stage name, “Lovebug Starski,” he got his start in the music industry as a DJ, working at Bronxhot spots like Disco Fever.
According to City Pages, Smith claimed to be the one who created the term, hip-hop.” As he explained, he originally created “hip, hop, hippy to the hippy hop-bop” as sort of a “nursery rhyme” for “party people.” Inspired by the West African tradition of call and response, he explained it more in depth:
“If I knew what it would turn out to be, don’t you think I’d copyright it?…Me and Kid Cowboy from the Furious Styles used to say it together…I’d say the ‘hip,’ he’d say the ‘hop.’ And then he stopped doing it, and I kept doing it.”
The phrase would later be popularized by the 1979 record Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang.
Smith would later release other singles under the name, “Little Starsky,” such as “Gangster Rock” and “Dancin’ Party People.”
Smith was also immortalized in pop culture with Notorious B.I.G.’s popular 1994 single, “Juicy.” Referencing some of New York’s original DJs, the song contains the following lyrics:
“Whoever thought that hip-hop would take it this far? Peace to Ron G, Brucie B, Kid Capri, Funkmaster Flex, Lovebug Starski.”
In the news of his death, many artists offered their condolences on social media. Chuck D, calling Smith a “DJ, MC and innovator,” said the following in a statement with DX:
“A pioneer who excelled before and after the recording line of ’79, the year when rap records began.
“He DJ’ed for the great MCs and MC’ed with the great DJs.”
What was Lovebug Starski’s cause of death?
Kevin “Lovebug Starski” Smith’s official cause of death is believed to be a heart attack, as confirmed by his manager.