Arrested Development's Baba Oje backstage before a 2003 Arrested Development concert at Centennial Olympic Park. (JENNI GIRTMAN/AJC STAFF)

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.”

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.

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About the Author

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