Mister Cee, New York DJ who helped discover Notorious B.I.G., dies at 57

Mister Cee, a Brooklyn-born disc jockey whose hit radio shows and famed 120-minute mixtapes shaped New York City’s 1990s hip-hop scene, has died at 57.

The DJ’s family confirmed his death Wednesday to his former employer of 21 years, radio station Hot 97.

“As a family at HOT 97 and WBLS, we’re deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved Mister Cee. He wasn’t just a DJ; he was a pillar of our stations, bringing joy to countless listeners with his legendary ‘Throwback at Noon’ and ‘Friday Night Live’ sets,” Hot 97 said in a statement.

“Mr. Cee’s influence stretched far beyond the airwaves, shaping the very fabric of NYC’s DJ culture,” the statement continued. “Our hearts are heavy as we send our love and condolences to his family and the fans whose lives he touched through his music.”

No cause of death was given.

Mister Cee, born Calvin Lebrun, learned to spin records from his uncle and next-door neighbor, who belonged to a DJ crew called DJ Knight and the Knights of Hollywood, he said in a November interview with Rock the Bells. Later, Lebrun gained prominence as the official DJ for Big Daddy Kane — whom he met in high school — and the host of Hot 97’s “Throwback at Noon,” where he played old-school hip-hop classics.

At Hot 97, LeBrun “was the glue between the old and the new,” Chris Green, head of national radio promotions for Capitol Music Group, told the New York Times in 2014.

LeBrun also is notably credited with helping to launch the career of revered rapper The Notorious B.I.G., also known as Biggie Smalls or, simply, Biggie.

The two were introduced in 1991 by DJ 50 Grand, who brought Biggie to LeBrun’s house to work on the demo that would eventually launch the young rapper’s career.

“Big was very shy. He would always talk with his head down and say, ‘Yo man, don’t be promising me nothing, man. If you say you’re going to do something, do it.’ And I’m like, nah, we’re going to redo the demo,’” LeBrun told Rock the Bells in November.

After their recording session, LeBrun passed Biggie’s demo tape along to a contact at the Source, landing the rapper in the magazine’s influential Unsigned Hype column. Soon after, Biggie signed with Bad Boy Records and released his critically acclaimed debut album, “Ready to Die” (1994), on which LeBrun served as associate executive producer.

“I didn’t think he would become what he would before passing away,” LeBrun said. “All I did at the time was try to get anybody and everybody to listen to him. Big Daddy Kane, Masta Ace, I would try to force Biggie down their throat, like you gotta hear this guy.”

Following the news of LeBrun’s death Wednesday, tributes poured in from the DJ’s collaborators.

“R.I.P to the legend MR. Cee God bless him, to all his family and friends I send my condolences,” 50 Cent wrote on X.

“Sometimes you’re only here for what seems like a short time. But when you make the most of it, life is truly something out of this world! #DJMisterCee did just that,” Skip Dillard, the brand manager at WXBK 94.7, where LeBrun performed, wrote on LinkedIn. “He has passed away, but leaves a legacy none of us privileged to have worked with him will EVER forget.”

In a fitting eulogy, Hot 97 played a recording Wednesday of LeBrun’s 2022 mix paying tribute to Biggie for what would have been the late rapper’s 50th birthday.

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