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UPDATED: 9:30 a.m. ET, March 12

While death is an inevitable part of life, that fact doesn’t make it any easier when it is reported that someone has died.

That is true for Boss, a pioneering rapper who was the first female emcee signed to the historic Def Jam Recordings music label, has died at 54.

The cause of the death of the rapper born Lichelle Marie Laws was not immediately confirmed. However, HipHop Wired reported that “in 2011 she experienced kidney failure and suffered a stroke in 2017.”

More from HipHopWired:

Bun B broke the news of her death when the Texas rapper shared his condolences on his Instagram.

“Rest in peace to my big sis Lichelle Laws AKA Boss. One of the best female MCs and a dear friend,” wrote B in the caption of a photo of Boss flipping up a pair birds. “Give Rick Royal a hug for me. Long Live The Org!”

Boss, stylized Bo$$, was the very first female rap act signed to Def Jam, with her debut album, Born Gangstaz, released in 1993. The lead single—the Def Jef produced “Deeper”—was a no. 1 hit on the rap charts. Her gruff style and hardcore delivery, along with beats provided by Erick Sermon, T-Ray, MC Serch and the late Jam Master Jay, amongst others, quickly made her a fan favorite, but a proper follow-up album never materialized.

Although tabbed as a West Coast rapper, she was actually born in Detroit. Moving to Los Angeles after high school, she was discovered by DJ Quik, who put her on a track with AMG. Word is it got the attention of Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons, who inked her to the label’s fledgling Def Jam West imprint—but those in the know say Tracy Waples (an executive producer on the album) is who actually pushed for her signing.

In the mid-1990s she reportedly settled in Houston, where she remained ever since. Unfortunately, in 2011 she experience kidney failure and suffered a stroke in 2017. At this time there are no specifics about her cause of death.

As information got out about her untimely passing the Hip-Hop community—fans, friends and peers—started saluting her on social media.

May Boss rest in peace.

MORE: Rest In Power: Notable Black People Who Died In 2023

Scroll down to keep reading below and to learn more about the other notable Black people who have died this year, in no particular order.

The post Rest In Power: Notable Black People Who Have Died This Year appeared first on NewsOne.

Rest In Power: Notable Black People Who Have Died This Year  was originally published on

1. Naomi King

Naomi King Source:Getty

Naomi Ruth Barber King, the sister-in-law of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was considered the matriarch of the family and was also a civil rights activist, died on March 7, Bernice King confirmed. She was 92.

“The mourning continues…waiting for morning to come. My aunt, Naomi King, who was married to my father’s brother, Rev. A.D. Williams King, passed today,” Bernice King wrote in an Instagram post. “Please pray for the King family.”

2. Iyaluua Ferguson

Iyaluua Ferguson Source:Solwazi Afi Olusola

Iyaluua Ferguson, a teacher, a revolutionary and a community organizer whose husband Herman Ferguson was a political prisoner, died Feb. 27 at 91.

Read more about her extraordinary life by clicking here.

3. David Johnson

David Johnson Source:Youtube

San Francisco photographer David Johnson died on March 1 at the age of 97, according to the San Francisco Standard.

Johnson was most known for his images than documented Black San Francisco. He also captured images of some of Black culture’s most prominent leaders, including W. E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson. Johnson didn’t just take flicks of famous Black people, he also made his presence known at groundbreaking events such as the 1963 March on Washington.

“He was able to capture the poignancy of people,” his stepdaughter Candace Sue told SF Standard. “You can see their desire for freedom.”

4. Michael “Virgil” Jones

Michael "Virgil" Jones Source:WWE

Just last week it was reported that former professional wrestler Mike “Virgil” Jones had died. He was 61.

Wrestling referee Marck Charles III posted the news about Virgil’s death on Facebook.

“My dear friends, it is with great sorrow that I bring news from the Jones family of the passing of our beloved Michael Jones, whom we know and loved as Virgil, Vincent, Soul Train Jones and more,” Charles wrote. “Virgil passed peacefully at the hospital this morning and I ask that you pray for him and for his family. May his memory be eternal!”

WWE also announced Virgil’s death.

From the WWE:

A beloved Superstar throughout his time in sports-entertainment, Virgil broke through alongside “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and would go on to capture the Million Dollar Title, claim WrestleMania victories, and be featured as the original bodyguard of The nWo during a legendary career.

Jones’ journey began after a conversation with Tony Atlas, and he then began training with WWE Hall of Famer Afa of The Wild Samoans. After initial success on the regional scene as Soul Train Jones, including scoring tag team gold alongside The Rock’s Father, Rocky Johnson, Jones found his home in WWE as Virgil.

Read the full WWE statement by clicking here.

While no cause of Virgil’s death was immediately reported, a GoFundMe account was raising money because Virgil “was diagnosed with Dementia.” The GoFundMe account has since stopped accepting donations.

Citing the GoFundMe account, the local Ohio news outlet WTRF reported that Virgil suffered two strokes in 2022.

Condolences for Virgil widely populated social media timelines following the news of his death, making his name a top trending topic.

Videos of Virgil wrestling against “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase were going viral as wrestling fans and enthusiasts recollected about a memorable bout between the two grapplers.

5. Eric Mays

Eric Mays Source:Getty

Eric Mays, a councilman in the Michigan city of Flint who died on Feb. 24 is being remembered for his fiery, outspoken style of governing his hometown. 

Widely revered in and around his district for his unabashed style of telling it like is, particularly surrounding the environmental disaster commonly referred to as the Flint Water Crisis, Mays was 65.

Local news outlet WJRT reported that Mays’ cause of death was “natural causes after an illness.”

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley called Mays’ death “a tremendous loss for our community.”

6. Hydeia Broadbent

Hydeia Broadbent Source:Getty

Hydeia Broadbent, an AIDS activist who was born with HIV and overcame that adversity to become a leading voice in the fight against the epidemic, died on Feb. 21. She was 39.

Born addicted to drugs and adopted at six weeks old, Broadbent was ultimately diagnosed with HIV when she was three years old. Broadbent contracted the disease in utero. Doctors predicted she wouldn’t live past five, but Broadbent went on to exceed nearly all expectations and became an activist to raise awareness about the disease that she refused to let negatively define her life.

7. Robert Reid

Robert Reid Source:Getty

Robert Reid, the former NBA star who played 10 seasons with the Houston Rockets and helped take the franchise to its first two NBA Finals, died on Feb. 19 following a battle with cancer. He was 68 years old.

The news was confirmed online by Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta.

“It is with great sorrow that my family and I received the news of the passing of Rockets legend, Robert Reid,” Fertitta wrote in a social media post. “I have had the privilege of knowing Robert for over 40 years, and his presence always brought joy and positivity to any room he entered. I will never forget watching the Rockets teams he was a part of in the ’80s compete in the Finals and the love he had for the game. My heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Diana, and all those who held him dear. Robert’s absence will be deeply felt, and he will be fondly remembered.”

8. Herbert Wigwe

Herbert Wigwe Source:Getty

Herbert Wigwe, a major bank executive in Africa, died on Feb. 9 in a helicopter accident in California. He was just 58 years old.

The CEO of Access Bank, a top-ranked Nigerian-based financial institution, died in the crash along with his wife, son, the former group chairman of the Nigeria Stock Exchange and both pilots, CNN reported.

Godwin Obaseki, the governor of Edo State in Nigeria, eulogized Wigwe in a social media post.

“The tragic incident is painful and heart-wrenching, and we pray for God’s abiding comfort in this profoundly difficult time,” Obaseki wrote. “Wigwe was a colossus in Nigeria’s financial sector, leading Access Bank to become an international brand that placed Nigeria on the global map of first-class financial services.”

9. Henry Fambrough

Henry Fambrough Source:Getty

From the Associated Press:

Henry Fambrough, the last surviving original member of the iconic R&B group The Spinners, whose hits included “It’s a Shame,” “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” and “The Rubberband Man,” died Wednesday, a spokesperson for the group said. He was 85.

Fambrough died peacefully of natural causes in his northern Virginia home, spokesperson Tanisha Jackson said in a statement.

Fambrough died on Feb. 7

10. Clyde Taylor

Clyde Taylor, a “leading figure in the field of Black studies in the 1970s” who “identified work by Black filmmakers as worthy of serious intellectual attention,” died on Jan. 24 at 92, the New York Times reported.


11. Michael Watford

The New York Times reported:

Michael Watford, a church-trained club singer whose baritone boomed over the world’s dance floors for much of the early 1990s, and in the process helped birth a subgenre of club music known as gospel house, died on Jan. 26 in Newark. He was 64.

His cousin Lorie Watford said the cause of his death, in a hospital, was dementia.

Mr. Watford’s signature hit was “So Into You,” a jubilant ditty that paired his romantic, yearning vocal, inspired by Luther Vandross, with insistent strings, a lush piano line, and frequent handclaps and drum rolls. It hit No. 1 on the Billboard dance chart in April 1994, only to be replaced a week later by Barbara Tucker’s “Beautiful People” — on which Mr. Watford provided backing vocals.

12. Carl Weathers

Carl Weathers Source:Getty

Legendary actor Carl Weathers, a former football star who rose to prominence on the big screen with his portrayal of fictional boxer Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” series of movies, died on Feb. 1 at 76.

No cause of Weather’s death was immediately reported.

Aside from his famous Creed character, Weathers refined his acting chops in several other box office smash movies in the 1980s, including “Predator” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and “Action Jackson” as a police officer in Detroit starring alongside R&B vixen Vanity.

More recently, Weathers had played a leading role in “The Mandelorian,” a spinoff from the Star Wars series of movies.

13. Hage Geingob

Hage Geingob Source:Getty

Hage Geingob, the president of the African nation Namibia, died on Feb 5. He was 82.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Geingob, who was elected president in 2014 with 87 percent of the vote on a wave of hope that he would fight government corruption and address Namibia’s severe economic hardship, leaves behind a mixed legacy as the country’s leader.

While he delivered on social grants for the elderly and won international praise for his push to develop renewable energy, he largely failed to uplift Namibia, a deeply impoverished country of 2.5 million. About a third of the work force is unemployed and, according to a United Nations calculation, 40 percent of the population lives in poverty. From 2008 to 2018, the number of Namibians living in shacks doubled to about a million, according to the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia.

Voters’ disappointment was evident in his re-election bid in 2019 — although he won, his vote share plummeted to 56 percent.

14. Earl Cureton

Earl Cureton Source:Getty

Earl Cureton, a basketball star who won two NBA championships, died on Feb. 4.

From ESPN:

The 6-foot-9 Cureton began his collegiate career with Robert Morris before transferring to Detroit Mercy for his final two seasons under then-coach Dick Vitale. He averaged 20 points and 9.1 rebounds during the 1979-80 season and is a member of the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.

The Detroit native was selected by Philadelphia in the third round of the 1979 NBA draft.

Cureton averaged 5.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 674 NBA games. He played for Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, the LA ClippersCharlotteHouston and Toronto. He was part of championship teams with the 1982-83 76ers and 93-94 Rockets.

He also coached in the NBA, United States Basketball League and Continental Basketball Association after his playing career.

15. Aston “Family Man” Barrett

Aston "Family Man" Barrett Source:Getty

Aston “Family Man” Barrett, the former bassist for legendary reggae group Bob Marley & The Wailers, died on Feb. 3. He was 77.

Consequence of Sound reported that Barrett’s son confirmed his father’s death;

From Consequence of Sound:

“With the heaviest of hearts, we share the news of the passing of our beloved Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett after a long medical battle,” he wrote. “This morning, the world lost not just an iconic musician and the backbone of The Wailers but a remarkable human being whose legacy is as immense as his talent. Our family is asking for privacy during this challenging time, as words cannot express our profound loss.”

Barrett hailed from Kingston, Jamaica. He initially played in Lee “Scratch” Perry’s house band, The Upsetters, before joining The Wailers with his brother Carlton in 1971.

As a member of The Wailers, Barrett was charge in charge of song arrangements and also co-produced and engineered several of the group’s albums, including Catch a Fire and Exodus.

16. Richard Caster

Richard Caster Source:Getty

Richard Caster, a former HBCU football star who ent on to play more than a dozen years as a professional football player in the NFL, died on Feb. 2 at 75.

The Associated Press reported:

Caster, a second-round pick of the Jets in 1970 out of Jackson State, caught 322 passes for 5,515 yards and 45 touchdowns during his NFL career.

Caster spent his first eight seasons with New York and became a favorite target of Joe Namath. The 6-foot-5, 228-pound Caster entered the league as a wide receiver who ran a 4.5 40-yard dash, but was later switched to tight end by coach Weeb Ewbank because of his combination of size and speed.

17. Hinton Battle

Hinton Battle Source:Getty

Broadway star and Hinton Battle died on Jan. 30 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to Hollywood Reporter.

The Tony-winning performer died at 67 after battling an undisclosed illness, which the family intends to keep private.

Hinton Battle was most known for his role as The Scarecrow in Broadway‘s The Wiz, which was his Broadway debut. He would later appear in works such as Sophisticated Ladies (1981), The Tap Dance Kid (1984) and Miss Saigon (1991). Battle won Tonys in the category of featured actor in a musical for all three productions. The actor, director, producer and choreographer also won an NAACP Image Award and was a SAG and Critics Choice nominee, who worked on the 2007 movie musical Dreamgirls.

18. Marlena Shaw

Marlena Shaw Source:Getty

It is in that context that the legendary jazz and R&B singer Marlena Shaw died on Sunday at 81.

Marlena Shaw’s death was confirmed on Facebook in a video posted by her daughter, Marla Bradshaw. However, the cause of Marlena Shaw’s death was not immediately reported.

“It’s with a very heavy heart for myself and my family I announce that our beloved mother, your beloved icon and artist Marlena Shaw has passed away today at 12:03,” Bradshaw said in the video. “She was peaceful. We were at peace.”

Bradshaw added: “She went listening to some of her favorite songs.”

Marlena Shaw’s record label, Verve Records, released a statement remembering the late singer’s legacy.

“We are saddened by the passing of Marlena Shaw, a wonderful singer whose ‘California Soul’ is as popular today as it ever was and whose album ‘It Is Love: Recorded Live At Vine St.’ helped relaunch the Verve label in 1987.”

The label also called her “a wonderful singer whose ‘California Soul’ is as popular today as it ever was and whose album ‘It Is Love: Recorded Live At Vine St.’ helped relaunch the Verve label in 1987.”

Marlena Shaw was best known for her 1969 song “California Soul, which has been sampled by some of hip-hop’s names including Gang Starr, Stereo MC and Diplo. 

Marlena Shaw also co-authored the popular song “Woman of the Ghetto, which was similarly widely sampled among rap artists. 

Her footprint in the music industry is bigger than most may have realized. Marlena Shaw has toured for more than 50 years and has 17 albums across eight different labels.

The social media account for Sister Sledge mourned the death of Shaw.

“So sorry to hear that Jazz icon Marlena Shaw has passed away. What a powerhouse of soul, sass and tenderness! Such a powerful legacy she leaves behind. Deepest condolences to her family and loved ones,” a message of condolences said.

May Marlena Shaw’s legacy in music live on forever.

19. Dexter Scott King

Dexter Scott King Source:Getty

Dexter Scott King, the youngest son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and equally missed Coretta Scott King, died on Jan. 22 following an extensive battle with prostate cancer. He was 62.

20. Josephine Wright

Josephine Wright Source:GoFundMe/Charise Graves

Josephine Wright, an elderly Black woman who famously sued a real estate developer she accused of attempting to harass her into selling her property in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina—a property she says has been in her family since just after the Civil War—died on Jan. 7. She was 94.

21. Reggie Wells, celebrity stylist

Reggie Wells, Emmy-winning stylist to the likes of Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Halle Berry and most notably Oprah Winfrey on a personal level for more than 30 years, died on Jan. 8. He was 76 years old.

22. Jerry Wade, radio DJ

Jerry Wade, radio DJ Source:n/a

Indianapolis disc jockey Jerry Wade, host of WTLC’s The Quiet Storm with The Loverman Jerry Wade for over 40 years, died at the age of 61. his death was confirmed by his family on Jan. 8. 

via WTLC:

“While on the air, Jerry was ‘Mr. Loverman,’ a charismatic, deep-voiced, radio disc jockey, gracing the airwaves Sunday through Thursday with the ‘sexiest show in the city.’ But off-air, Jerry made everyone else feel like they were the superstar. ‘The Loverman’ was the personality, but if there he had an alter-ego it was just ‘Jerry.’ An ego-less man who loved Indianapolis and wanted to see people smile. What most listeners didn’t know, was Jerry’s giving heart. Jerry was also the Executive Director of ‘Quality of Life,’ an Adult Day Center on the east side of Indianapolis. If that wasn’t enough Jerry was also an entrepreneur, as the owner of several salons known as ‘Hot Cuts’ and of course ‘Jerry Wade Live’ his mobile DJ service. And a real life ‘Hitch’ as through his date coach services he connected and reconnected countless relationships.”

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