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Arrested Development spiritual leader Baba Oje has died

The elder affectionately known as “the oldest man in hip-hop” has died.

Baba Oje, the longtime spiritual leader of Atlanta-rooted Arrested Development passed away Friday at the age of 86 from acute leukemia.

Known as a symbolic presence – as well as being the oldest member of any hip-hop collective – Oje was part of Arrested Development lore since group frontman Speech founded the Atlanta outfit in 1988.

As a non-performing part of Arrested Development, Oje was still part of the Grammys the band won for best new artist and best performance by a duo or group (for “Tennessee”) in 1993.

Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, remembered Oje for his “fiery presence and dedication to sharing his wisdom with his fellow group members.”

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In a touching YouTube video, Speech recalled visiting Oje last week, a few days before his death, in a hospice care facility in Milwaukee. “It doesn’t look like he’s gonna make it…it looks pretty grim, actually,” Speech said.

Arrested Development is currently touring overseas and paid tribute to Oje during its weekend concerts.

“I literally can see Baba dancing in the corner of my mind,” Speech said in his video. 

A funeral service is reportedly planned for Nov. 2.

View this post on Instagram

October 26, 2018. Hip-Hop culture just lost a soldier. #RIPBABAOJE BABA OJE the elder from the 2x Grammy Award winning group ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT passed this morning at 4am after fighting acute Leukemia, he was 86 years old. Baba was the oldest member of any hip-hop collective and his mere presence in rap spoke volumes for the genre and for a generation looking for symbolic wisdom and answers. He was an activist for the homeless, a military veteran, a world traveler, spiritual advisor to the group, strict vegan, dancer, vocalist and avid roller skater. His family & friends are scheduling service arrangements for him next week Friday. We will deeply miss Baba Oje and ask for prayers for his family. I met Baba hanging with the young dudes while I was in college, he was always super cool and always willing to talk to the youth! I gathered up the nerve to ask him to be in my hip hop group, he at first said no. But he later reconsidered when he thought about the fact that a young black man was striving to start a positive rap thing. However, we both found out that this partnership was bigger than we even knew. We both learned later that Baba knew my parents and in fact, was the best man in my mother and fathers wedding way before I was even thought of! That's the spiritual bond we shared, he was literally like family to me, I will miss him terribly. - Speech

A post shared by Speech (@speech__) on

About the Author

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.  

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