Legendary hip-hop composer and producer David Axelrod died on Feb. 5 at age 83. The cause of death has yet to be revealed.
Axelrod left a profound impact on the hip-hop community and his work was frequently sampled by artists like Dr. Dre, DJ Shadow, Wu-Tang Clan and Lil Wayne, according to Billboard.
Born in Los Angeles in 1933, Axelrod hit the music scene in 1959 and shaped the hip-hop community by combining jazz, R&B and rock. He worked for Capitol Records as a producer before going on to record dozens of his own albums, Billboard reports.
In 1968, he produced “Songs of Innocence,” a concept album about the writings of poet William Blake, according to Rolling Stone. The album was highly regarded by critics and routinely sampled by other artists. After the poor reception of a 1993 LP, though, Axelrod decided to step away from the music industry.
However, soon after his retirement, he returned to the music scene when hip-hop artists discovered his work and began sampling it. Most famously, Axelrod’s song “The Edge” was sampled in Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s hit 2000 single “The Next Episode.”
In a rare performance in 2004, Axelrod thanked Dre for sampling his work, saying “this allows you to have ‘screw you’ money.”
Following the news of his death, the hip-hop community expressed its condolences over social media.
“So sad to hear about the passing of musician/composer DavidAxelrod,” wrote Questlove over Instagram, according to Rolling Stone. “He was so immersed in creativity and so pure with his arrangements he WAS hip hop. [His] appreciation for music and his ability to recognize musicianship is what I’ll take from him.”
DJ Shadow, a close friend and frequent sampler of Axelrod’s posted on Twitter: “I’ll never forget meeting him for the first time in 1998 … David could be incredibly intimidating … but if he liked [and] respected you, he was the most loyal friend on earth. So honored to have known you David, you are a bonafide hero to an entire generation of hip-hop kids and musical dreamers.”
Sources: Billboard, Rolling Stone, Questlove/Instagram, DJ Shadow/Twitter (2) / Photo Credit: Runout Records/Instagram