The Untold Truth Of Kris Kross

The pre-teen hip duo known as Kris Kross was one of the most successful and youngest musical acts of the early '90s. Composed of two young boys, named Chris Kelly and Chris Smith, the pair chose the stage names Mac Daddy and Daddy Mac, respectively. Barely seasoned teenagers, the Atlanta-based kids entered the music industry in 1992 at 13 and 12 years old and would immediately find massive success. Their hit song, "Jump," would be the duo's first big hit, and it was their only No. 1 track on the Billboard charts.

They quickly became a popular pair, and often performed at various kid-centric events before venturing into an older sound. By the mid-'90s, their appeal as young hit-makers had worn off, and they split in 1996. They went their separate ways, with Kelly continuing to make music and going to school, and Smith also going down an educational path but no longer pursuing music.

They reunited in 2013, and that same year, Kelly died at the age of 34 (via Biography).

Discovered in a mall

Record label executive and producer Jermaine Dupri found the famous teen duo. Yet, the teens were already stars in their own right. According to a 2018 interview Dupri did with the Grammy Museum director (posted on YouTube), the record executive said that he was just 19 years old when he was at Atlanta's Greenbriar Mall and saw two distinctly cool boys getting free cookies from girls who worked there. A curious Dupri approached them, learned that they were all but 11 years old, and asked them what they do to attract such attention from girls at the mall. As Dupri recalled, Smith (Daddy Mac) said, "We're just cool."

He remained enthused by the boys he just happened to come across but wanted to learn more, so he remained in contact. Dupri eventually formed a friendship with them and even picked them up at school. One day, on a ride from school, he heard them rapping to the lyrics of songs off of Ice Cube's "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" album. Despite them not initially being rappers, Dupri was stunned at how well they recited the songs and had them record a track. After sending the song to Ruffhouse Records exec Joe "The Butcher" Nicolo (IMDb), he signed them and Kris Kross was born.

A nickname for Chris Kelly

Both of their names were Chris, so naturally the "Kris" portion of their name made a lot of sense. But where did the Kross from? According to Chris Smith's mother, it was from a name that Kelly himself earned when he was a few years younger. Per a 1992 Washington Post profile, Smith's parents recalled that Kelly loved applesauce so much that a teacher affectionately called him "Chrissy Crossy Apple Saucy."

They were also fanatics of wearing their clothing backward — everything from their t-shirts, jeans, and hats. The name stuck, so the name Kris Kross was born. But they also needed their individual names, and by sticking to the theme, they picked names that were the inverse of the other. Kelly chose Mac Daddy, and Smith was Daddy Mac. It essentially originates from "Mack," a term that signified a man that gets a lot of women. And seeing how they attracted a gaggle of teen girls and earned free cookies for it, it seemed all but appropriate to choose those names.

"It was just something boys used to use in school and stuff. Whoever gets a lot of girls and stuff, called macks," said a young Kelly.

Trendsetters of backward clothing

While wearing a baseball hat backward dates back as early as the 1940s, the trend of wearing hats and clothing backward has its roots of popularity in the '90s. That is the decade it turned into something else. And one can thank Kris Kross for helping it become more trendy.

In their famous debut video for the single "Jump," (posted on YouTube) the duo is seen wearing some of their clothing backwards. Mac Daddy (Kelly) even calls attention to it in a lyric stating that backward is the trend because inside out just isn't: "And everything is to the back with a little slack, 'cause inside out is wiggida, wiggida, wiggida wack," per AZ Lyrics.

The debut album cover shows the pair with both their jeans and New York sports jerseys on backward. Their video would also be a poignant example as to why many other people in the '90s began sporting their clothes backward. They were such a force in the trend that they are almost always cited as the creators of it. Kelly would even go on and continue wearing his pants backward, even when it was well beyond out of style, per Yahoo! News.

Platinum-selling artists

Even though the group was quite short-lived, they cemented their place in music history with multi-platinum selling albums. Their first project, "Totally Krossed Out," performed extremely well and went platinum four times, per Music Times. Three songs off of the album would find their way to the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Their sophomore album would also go platinum. "Da Bomb" also went platinum, and two songs from the project debuted on the charts again. Their very last album, "Young, Rich & Dangerous," was a project that tried to explore the Chrises in their late teens. It did not bring them the same success that they saw from the previous albums, but they did earn gold certification for it. They would appear on the charts again for the last and final time. Afterward, the duo disbanded.

Despite Jermaine Dupri discovering them, they were never signed to his label, So So Def. However, because he was the man to find them, their success helped propel his career to start his own music company (via Rap Reviews).

Chris Smith's life post-Kris Kross

Sadly, only one-half of the duo is still living. In 2013, just months after reuniting to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of So So Def records (via Yahoo! Entertainment), Chris Kelly, or Mac Daddy, died of an apparent drug overdose at the age of 34, per Rolling Stone.

Kelly had continued to make music after their split, but also went to school to learn music engineering (via Biography). Smith also went to school to learn business and marketing, and even created an entertainment company in the years after Kelly's death, per Trademarks. The loss proved to be very hard on Smith, who was friends with Kelly since they were in the first grade. At his funeral service, a tearful Smith spoke about his lifelong friend and what their friendship meant to him, per Sydney Morning Herald.

"We had so many memories. He was a true friend. He wanted to see if I was all right. So I just want to say I love you man, and I'll miss you," said Smith.

Today, Smith can be found updating his Instagram from time to time and promoting his other business — a clothing and footwear company called Urbane Muse. It is also the handle of his personal Instagram page.