The reports have been coming in for the last hour or so, but I never wanted to be the one to report something as tragic as this FIRST, so I’ve been attempting to get some independent verification. The first thing that happened was my Facebook feed started blowing up with condolences, so I checked out his personal page and saw even more there. The problem is in the internet age people are declared dead and it spreads like wildfire whether it’s true or not, so I kept on digging.
Two fairly reliable sources are now reporting it as a fact that Pumpkinhead (real name Robert Diaz) has passed away – AllHipHop and Ambrosia For Heads, but the details are still very scant. It’s fairly clear from checking out his Twitter timeline that something was up, as PH is normally hustling and promoting, but his last update was June 5th – that’s last Friday. Nothing since then.
Many of the artists and collaborators that PH knew best have been sharing their condolences online. Before I get to those tweets I’d like to share a personal story of how I first met and knew him. I went to New York for the second annual Online Hip-Hop Awards (which is now long defunct) and considered it as a “pilgrimage to Mecca” for a long time head who had never even been to the East coast before then. I made all the stops you would expect to make including Fat Beats (where I bought a ton of vinyl) but the one thing I’ll never forget about the experience is that there was a live freestyle battle going on in the store right when I walked in – and PUMPKINHEAD WAS THE MAN for the entire time I was there. Anybody who stepped up got slayed. He had punchlines for days, disses to amaze, one by one competition got slayed. I could have stayed for an hour in awe of the skill but I had more sights to see so ultimately I bounced – but that impression stuck with me and made me a fan of his ever since.
That was the first Pumpkinhead twelve inch I ever bought, and the remix was equally amazing. His “Orange Moon Over Brooklyn” remains one of my favorite albums, and for a generation introduced producer Marco Polo on the scene as somebody to watch. The two were tight ever since so I knew that when Polo was tweeting about his passing I had to accept it was real and not a hoax.
Here’s what some of his other peers have had to say.
R.I.P. Robert. The world won’t be the same without your voice. Our sympathy and support goes out to his family, friends, and fans all around the world.