Rest In Peace Mister Cee: Remembering The DJ's Indelible Hip-Hop Legacy

BYGabriel Bras Nevares2.2K Views
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Raekwon And Ghostface Killah In Concert - New York, NY
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 20: DJ Mister Cee attends Irving Plaza on July 20, 2015, in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images)
For over thirty years, few rap and R&B tastemakers bridged generations with the same love, knowledge, and passion of Calvin LeBrun.

On Wednesday (April 10), 94.7 The Block on WXBK played a recording of Mister Cee's 2022 mix tributing Biggie Smalls on what would've been the late rapper's 50th birthday. "Sky's The Limit" rang with a different tone amid news that the legendary radio DJ and historic hip-hop cultural contributor, real name Calvin LeBrun, had passed away at the age of 57 due to unknown causes at press time. Also known as The Finisher or The Wallop King, Cee was an instrumental figure in rap from the late 1980s onward. Upon news of his tragic loss, DJ Premier, 50 Cent, DJ Jazzy Jeff, MC Lyte, Peter Rosenberg, Queen Latifah, and many more shared their heartfelt condolences.

Mister Cee is one of the greatest DJs in the history of New York hip-hop, known for over two decades of being one of many figures who made Hot 97 a juggernaut. From Brooklyn's public-access station 91.5 WNYE to WBLS and his acclaimed mixtapes, he stands as one of the genre's great tastemakers. The depth of the Brooklyn native's knowledge, love, and passion for the culture extended not just to his '80s and '90s roots, but also to more contemporary talents. While figures like him might be harder to come by with each passing change of the media guard, his hard work is a testament to the power of hip-hop culture and a beacon for any fan, participant, benefactor, or spectator of it.

Mister Cee's Beginnings: Big Daddy Kane & Hot 97

Mister Cee and Big Daddy Kane appear at a video release party for a music video project on February 11, 1991 in New York City. (Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Calvin LeBrun's hip-hop story begins as a young Bed-Stuy lad inspired by the World Famous Supreme Team and his late uncle's crew, DJ Knight and the Knights of Hollywood, to make it in the radio space. His first big break was becoming the DJ of his high school friend Big Daddy Kane in the late 1980s, one of the most significant lyricists of his (and all) time. Mister Cee and his scratches appeared on Kane's "Mister Cee's Master Plan" off his 1988 debut, and he nabbed various other credits on the MC's subsequent albums.

He was also a part of the legendary Juice Crew in the late 1980s alongside Mr. Magic, Roxanne Shante, Kool G Rap, and many more titans whose reverberations are still felt today. Throughout all this, Mister Cee's popularity as a radio DJ and personality grew exponentially. His shows on Hot 97 and WBLS beginning around 1993 (Throwback at Noon and Friday Night Live) focused on putting on rising artists and playing hip-hop and R&B classics. Even though The Finisher had already etched his name into the history books, an even greater opportunity arrived through a childhood friend.

The Finisher Helps Put Biggie Smalls On The Map

DJ 50 Grand introduced Mister Cee to a young Biggie Smalls in the early 1990s, and they all re-recorded The Notorious B.I.G.'s demo to get his name out there. Their dreams manifested, as this led to Big's Bad Boy Records deal and widespread recognition. Cee even got an associate executive producer credit on Biggie's massive debut album, 1994's Ready To Die. However, in a November 2023 interview with Rock The Bells, he remembered his Best Of Biggie Smalls mixtape from 1995 as the project that "changed [his] life." The Wallop King was revered for his 120-minute mixtapes as opposed to 60 or 90-minute material. These were characterized by a non-stop approach to the music that was largely uninterrupted by DJ drops, sounds effects, or run-it-backs.

Mister Cee also joined Funkmaster Flex's Flip Squad collective of New York DJs, and both got a lyrical shoutout from none other than Jay-Z on his 2009 single "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)." According to Hot 97, he also helped folks like 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, and Hov himself find the audiences that would lead them to massive success. But after Biggie passed away in 1997, LeBrun knew that he could do more than uplift stars on the come-up. He began paying tribute to hip-hop's fallen legends on his shows as well, a heartening tradition that he maintained up until his passing.

The Wallop King's Later Years

In 2014, Mister Cee officially left Hot 97 due to differing from its new musical direction. This followed issues surrounding his arrests for prostitution soliciting and controversy stemming from his publicly revealed attraction to transgender women. While this situation was hotly debated at the time, it opened up a larger conversation around homophobia in hip-hop that, although incomplete, has led to significantly progressive strides to combat it. But that doesn't mean that his hard work ever dwindled or became overshadowed. For example, LeBrun introduced the world to Fetty Wap with his future hit "Trap Queen" in 2014 on Hot 97.

The media industry also celebrated Mister Cee with much respect and adoration, such as his guest appearance in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV as a radio DJ. After leaving Hot 97, he continued to do radio shows, such as WXBX's aforementioned The Block on 94.7 for throwback classics from hip-hop and R&B, and he posted his mixes online. Cee's final slot on air was The Set It Off Show on SiriusXM's Rock The Bells Radio. Testimonies of his greatness, like those from Capitol Records promoter Chris Green, identify him as "the glue between the old and the new" across his many programs. For the indelible seeds he planted and his staunchly good-natured approach to media and hip-hop culture, there is no more fitting or deserved title. Rest In Peace Mister Cee.

About The Author
Gabriel Bras Nevares is a music and pop culture news writer for HotNewHipHop. He started in 2022 as a weekend writer and, since joining the team full-time, has developed a strong knowledge in hip-hop news and releases. Whether it’s regular coverage or occasional interviews and album reviews, he continues to search for the most relevant news for his audience and find the best new releases in the genre. What excites him the most is finding pop culture stories of interest, as well as a deeper passion for the art form of hip-hop and its contemporary output. Specifically, Gabriel enjoys the fringes of rap music: the experimental, boundary-pushing, and raw alternatives to the mainstream sound. As a proud native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, he also stays up-to-date with the archipelago’s local scene and its biggest musical exponents in reggaetón, salsa, indie, and beyond. Before working at HotNewHipHop, Gabriel produced multiple short documentaries, artist interviews, venue spotlights, and audio podcasts on a variety of genres and musical figures. Hardcore punk and Go-go music defined much of his coverage during his time at the George Washington University in D.C. His favorite hip-hop artists working today are Tyler, The Creator, Boldy James, JPEGMAFIA, and Earl Sweatshirt.