John Fletcher, who was known by the stage name “Ecstasy” while performing with the early rap group Whodini, has died, according to the group’s Grand Master Dee and numerous friends. He was 56. The cause of death was not revealed.
“One love to Ecstasy of the legendary #Whodini,” wrote Roots drummer Questlove on social media. “This man was legendary and a pivotal member of one of the most legendary groups in hip hop. This is sad man.”
Whodini were among the commercial pioneers of rap music as contemporaries of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Kurtis Blow. Their hit singles included “Friends,” “Freaks Come Out at Night,” “Magic’s Wand” and “The Haunted House of Rock.” The group earned one platinum (1 million units sold) and two gold albums (500,000 units).
Tributes poured in for Fletcher on social media.
“[In] 1987 I entered the Def Jam tour,” wrote Public Enemy’s Chuck D. “I tended to be nervous, looking at 15,000 fans in front of me every night. There were two MCS that directly mentored my calm that summer. One was Doug E. Fresh and the other was Ecstacy of Whodini. Always there to reassure with advice and tips.”
Whodini was formed by Fletcher and Jalil Hutchins in Brooklyn, NY in 1982. The group signed with Jive Records and managed by Russell Simmons, who also handled Run-DMC and Kurtis Blow. Their first single was “Magic’s Wand,” a tribute to early hip-hop DJ Mr. Magic.
Fletcher, known for his Zorro hat. was a focal point of the group.
The big commercial breakthrough came with the 1984 album Escape, which included “Freaks Come Out at Night” and “Friends,” the latter one of the most-sampled songs in hip-hop.
Whodini went on the road with Run-DMC’s epic Raising Hell Tour, one of that year’s major music events that featured LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys as well.
As new styles emerged in hip-hop, Whodini became part of the old school, and was pushed down the food chain. Their final album arrived in 1996, but the group continued appearing at reunion shows.
Whodini was honored by VH1’s Hip Hop Honors in 2007 and at the Black Music Honors in 2018, where they received the Hip-Hop Icon Award.
His family and friends issued statements on his passing.
Jonnelle Fletcher, John Fletcher’s daughter, said, “The African and Native American ancestors have gathered around and chosen this day, during the Winter Solstice, Dec 23rd, 2020 to call upon a most endeared, generous, and sincere soul who graced The World’s heart through performance, hip-hop, family, children and grandchildren.
John “Ecstasy” Fletcher was a beloved man, the life partner to Deltonia and ex-husband to Carla, twin brother to Joseph, artist, friend, and lifetime performing partner to the Legendary Jalil of Whodini.
Whodini set a Hip Hop course of legendary status that we are all sure to pass on to our grandchildren.
Please send love and prayers to our family, and with open hearts we ask the ancestors to cover his soul in peace and tranquility. Play his music if it moves you, and know he’ll be hearing you on his way home this day, Dec 23rd.”
Cards and letters can be sent to
3799 Main Street
P.O. Box 87176
College Park, GA 30337
Performing partner Jalil said, “‘One Love’ to one of Hip Hop’s Greatest! There will never be another.”
Barry Weiss, the CEO of Jive Records, the recording home of Whodini, posted on Instagram about the rapper. “So many memories. Hard to comprehend. It all started with this record. Produced by Thomas Dolby. Made for Rap radio DJ Mr. Magic. He fell out. Sent over Jalil to rap the song who showed up with some guy named Ecstasy. Had no money and no contract for him but threw the rule book out the window when we heard his verse and his voice. We came up with the name Whodini, threw caution to the wind and watched as these two kids out of Brooklyn conquered the world and set the pace and tone for a generation of rappers that came after them.
“Ecstasy was truly one of the first rap stars. Not just a brilliant voice and wordsmith, but a ladies man and sex symbol when they were very scarce in the early days of rap. Whodini helped usher in a female audience to what had been a traditional male art form. So Rest In Peace Ex. We loved you and will miss you. You and your Zorro hat made a mark.”