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R.I.P. MTV reality star Christopher “Big Black” Boykin

(Photo: Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images)
(Photo: Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images)

Variety reports that Christopher Boykin—best known to fans of mid-2000s MTV as “Big Black,” of Rob & Big fame—has died. Boykin was 45.

A Navy veteran, Boykin met pro skater Rob Dyrdek when the latter was casting a security guard for a skating skit, and the two quickly became close friends. When Dyrdek approached MTV about turning his life into a reality show, he pitched the pair’s odd couple friendship—contrasting his own boisterousness with Boykin’s soft-spoken calm—as the central hook for the show. (MTV executives apparently fought for something more scripted, but Dyrdek successfully identified his relationship with Boykin as the core that would get people to care about the show.)

Although often centered on weird situations or stunts, Rob & Big was far more interested in being a chill hang-out than something like the earlier Jackass, laying the groundwork for other celebrity “slice of life” shows like Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Boykins’ seemingly endless cool worked to keep things grounded, even when the duo were blasting each other with net guns, or taking to the stage as strippers.

Despite its massive popularity, Rob & Big ended after its third season, with Boykin stating in the finale that he was moving out to be a father to his newborn child. In reality, filming a show together for three years had reportedly strained the two men’s relationship to the breaking point, with arguments about money and creative control occasionally surfacing into the public view. After the series ended, Boykin focused on his own fashion line, named after his catch phrase, “Do Work.” He and Dyrdek eventually reconciled, though, and he appeared on several seasons of Dyrdek’s later reality series, Fantasy Factory.

According to People, a representative for Boykin says that a heart attack was the cause of death.

UPDATE: Dyrdek has posted a response to his friend’s death via Facebook:

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