Prince Markie Dee, Puerto Rican emcee and member of the legendary rap trio the Fat Boys, died on Thursday at age 52, one day short of his 53rd birthday. As of publishing, no cause of death has been given. Louis Gregory of Uncle Louie Music Group confirmed the news. “Forever in my Heart. Prince Markie Dee was more than a rapper; he was one of my very best and closest friends,” Gregory tweeted. “My heart breaks today because I lost a brother. I’ll always love you Mark and I’ll cherish everything you taught me. Tomorrow is your birthday, swing my way big bro.”
Born Mark Anthony Morales on February 19, 1968, in Brooklyn, Prince Markie Dee served as one-third of the pioneering rap group the Fat Boys, performing under the moniker the Disco 3 and linking up with Darren “Buff Love” Robinson (a.k.a. the Human Beat Box) and Damon Wimbley (a.k.a. Kool Rock Ski) in the ’80s. The trio released The Fat Boys in 1984 and The Fat Boys Are Back in 1985, produced by rap legend Kurtis Blow, which included hits such as “Can You Feel It?,” “Jail House Rap,” and “The Fat Boys Are Back.” The group helped put beatboxing on the map and became one of the premier hip-hop groups by the end of the decade with the release of their platinum fourth album, Crushin’, and their 1987 breakout comedy film, Disorderlies. Their biggest hit, a cover of “Wipeout” with the Beach Boys, went all the way to No. 12 on the Billboard “Hot 100.” In the ’90s, Morales left the Fat Boys to pursue a solo career and produce tracks for rising stars Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, and Mary J. Blige, including Blige’s first top-ten track, “Real Love.” In 1992, Morales released his solo album Free, which spawned the No. 1 hit single “Typical Reasons (Swing My Way).
In the years to come, Morales would transition to radio, becoming a radio host at Miami’s 103.5 the Beat in 2008. He had his own radio show, The Prince Markie Dee Show, on SiriusXM’s Rock the Bells station produced by LL Cool J. Nevertheless, he still made music, producing hits for Coolio, Craig Mack, Drake, Jennifer Lopez, Ariana Grande, Frank Ocean, Destiny’s Child, and Macy Gray. Rapper Questlove took to Instagram, sharing a video of a Fat Boys performance in honor of the late Morales. “I wanted to leave this electrifying clip of the #FatBoys on @SoulTrain to show you how mind blowing this trio was when they came out in 1984,” Questlove writes. “Rest In Peace to Mark Morales, the Puerto Rican Prince, the Fat Boy.” RIP.