As confirmed by Rolling Stone, R&B singer Clarence Reid—probably better known as the masked rapper Blowfly—has died. He had recently been admitted into a hospice and was suffering from liver cancer and multiple organ failure. He was 76.
Reid got his start in the music industry in the ‘60s and ‘70s, writing normal R&B songs for acts like Betty Wright, Bobby Byrd, and KC & The Sunshine Band. However, as noted in the 2011 documentary The Weird World Of Blowfly, he developed a fascination with parodying popular songs as a child, replacing their lyrics with significantly more explicit versions. His initial goal was apparently to annoy his bosses at the farm where he worked, but—foreshadowing his future career—they actual loved his takes on the songs.
In 1971, Reid decided to take this hobby and make a full album of dirty songs, releasing it under the pseudonym “Blowfly” and donning a mask on the cover to protect his normal career. That album, The Weird World Of Blowfly, was a relative hit at the time, especially considering the small audience for sexually explicit proto-rap music in 1971, and though Reid continued writing and releasing R&B songs under his own name, his comedic persona really took off and he released 25 Blowfly albums over the next few decades. These included 1980’s Blowfly’s Party, 1987’s Blowfly And The Temple Of Doom, 1999’s Blowfly Does XXX-Mas, and 2012’s Black In The Sack.
Tom Bowker, one of Reid’s longtime collaborators, posted a tribute to his friend on Facebook, thanking Reid’s fans for supporting his “50+ year music career” and promising tribute performances—presumably from the generations of rappers and hip-hop fans who were influenced by Blowfly. Rolling Stone also says that Bowker believed Reid would release one last album this year, titled 77 Rusty Trombones, but it’s unclear if it was actually written or recorded before his death.