Hip-hop just lost another figure this year with the death of John “Ecstasy” Fletcher of Whodini. Tributes are pouring in for the rapper who passed away at age 56.
As a member of the pioneering group who brought the iconic songs “One Love,” “Friends,” and “Freaks Come Out at Night” to audiences everywhere, Ecstasy made his debut rocking a trademark Zorro hat in music videos, photos, and on stage.
It’s one of the ways fans identified him out of the trio that included DJ Grandmaster Dee and Jalil Hutchins. A gifted storyteller, he shared how the hat came to be a part of his look.
Whodini honored for their role in hip-hop
The Brooklyn-bred Whodini launched in the ’80s not long after Run-D.M.C. came on the scene with their beats produced by Larry Smith. Whodini’s self-titled debut dropped in 1983 and the group’s 1984 sophomore album, Escape, went platinum.
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, they toured, released albums, and solidified themselves as legends. Their music’s been sampled by Nas, Tupac, Scarface and more.
Ecstasy and his groupmates are considered trendsetters when it comes to videos and sound, and in 2007, they were celebrated at VH1’s Hip Hop Honors for their contributions to hip-hop culture. And in 2018, they received an Icon award from Black Music Honors.
Ecstasy’s Zorro hat was a symbol for Whodini
Hip-hop and fashion have always intersected, and for Whodini, the Zorro hat was part of their signature. In an interview with D.R.E.S. the Beatnik for Hip Hop 40 Live, Ecstasy explained the origins of his headpiece. He said when coming up with a style, they wanted something that would help people immediately identify the group.
“Me and my twin brother Dynasty were walking down the street in Brooklyn on Myrtle Avenue, and we saw this hat in the window,” he said.
“It was just a wool kind of gaucho, and I said, ‘You know what? That hat is nice, but it would be better if it was in leather.’ So, we bought the hat and I took it to a hatmaker and instructed him to make it for me in leather,” Ecstasy recalled.
He also had matching shorts and other pieces of apparel made that were in style back in the ’80s. He shared it was all part of branding Whodini apart from other groups so that people would easily recognize them. “And it worked!” Ecstasy said.
During a 2013 interview with AL.com, Hutchins spoke about Ecstasy’s lineup of hats and how many he’d bring on tour. Of course, they came in multiple colors, but he had a favorite.
“He would bring them one or two at a time. He had them in red; had them in white; two in black, one with an African headpiece on it. He had different ones, but the original one was his favorite. You’ve seen that one a lot,” he said.
Artists such as Nas, Ice Cube, Chuck D, and Jermaine Dupri have all expressed their condolences for the late rapper who will be remembered as one of hip-hop’s trailblazers.