John "Ecstasy" Fletcher
Credit: Leon Bennett/Getty Images

John Fletcher, also known as Ecstasy, of the pioneering hip-hop group Whodini, has died at 56. The group's Grandmaster Dee confirmed the news to Variety after the Roots’ Questlove first announced Fletcher's death on social media on Wednesday. No cause of death has been given.

A Brooklyn native known for his trademark Zorro hat, Fletcher formed Whodini with fellow rapper Jalil Hutchins in 1982, quickly rising to prominence in the early '80s New York hip-hop scene. Pioneering from the start — their debut single "Magic's Wand" was among the first rap songs with an accompanying music video — the duo was later joined by DJ Grandmaster Dee, and saw a breakthrough with their second album, Escape, in 1984. Featuring the tracks "Five Minutes of Funk," "Freaks Come Out at Night," and "Friends" — the latter of which would be sampled by Nas and Tupac Shakur, among others — the album received critical praise and would later be ranked among the best of the 1980s.

Though lesser-known than other early rap groups such as Run-DMC and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Whodini are considered pioneers of the genre, cited as an influence by such rappers as Jermaine Dupri. In a tribute to Fletcher posted to Twitter, Dupri wrote, "My God, this one hurts me so bad, I can’t even believe I’m posting this, Ex you know I love you. Thank you for every word, every conversation, every good time, may your soul Rest In Power."

Other musicians posted tributes to social media as well, including Questlove, who broke the news of Fletcher's death. "One Love to Ecstasy of the Legendary #Whodini," the drummer and Tonight Show bandleader wrote. "This man was legendary and a pivotal member of one of the most legendary groups in hip hop. This is sad man."

Wrote Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, "RIP to Ecstasy from Whodini. One of the most under appreciated voices in hip hop. Too many hits!"

Chuck D recalled receiving mentorship from Fletcher early in his career, writing, "1987 I entered the @Defjam tour [with Public Enemy]. I tended to be nervous looking at 15,000 fans in front of me every night. There were 2 MCS that directly mentored my calm that summer. 1 was @RealDougEFresh, the other was Ecstasy of Whodini. Always there to reassure w advice [and] tips #RestInBeats."

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