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Bo$$, Rap Pioneer and the First Female Artist Signed to Def Jam, Dead at 56

The performer, born Lichelle Marie Laws, was known as a hip-hop pioneer in the '90s West Coast music scene

<p>Raymond Boyd/Getty</p> Bo$$ at WJPC-FM in Lansing, Illinois in April 1993

Raymond Boyd/Getty

Bo$$ at WJPC-FM in Lansing, Illinois in April 1993

Rapper Lichelle Marie Laws, known professionally as Bo$$, has died. She was 54.

The legendary rapper was a trailblazer in ‘90s rap, best known for her cult-loved album Born Gangstaz, and among the first female artists ever signed to Def Jam. The record label confirmed her death on Wednesday.

In a statement posted to Instagram, shared along with a photo of Laws in sunglasses and head-to-toe Carhartt, Def Jam wrote, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Lichelle Marie Laws, also known as Bo$$.”

The statement continued, “Bo$$ will be remembered as a pioneer in hip hop, being one of the first female rappers signed to Def Jam in the early 1990’s. We extend our prayers and condolences to her family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

As reported by The Detroit News, Laws died on Monday due to kidney failure.

<p>Raymond Boyd/Getty</p> Bo$$ at WJPC-FM radio in Lansing, Illinois in April 1993

Raymond Boyd/Getty

Bo$$ at WJPC-FM radio in Lansing, Illinois in April 1993

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According to a GoFundMe set up by the hip-hop pioneer’s family, in 2011 Laws was diagnosed with renal disease, a condition in which the kidneys no longer properly function, per Mayo Clinic. She suffered a stroke in 2017 as well.

At the time of her death, she was in need of a procedure that would have made it possible for her to receive a kidney transplant, as stated by her family on GoFundMe.

Laws was born in Detroit and, after coming up in the local rap-battle scene, she and her DJ partner Irene “Dee” Moore relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. The performers cut her teeth in the L.A. scene for some time, and Law was eventually discovered by famed West Coast rapper DJ Quik, who she collaborated with on a track that caught the attention of Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons.

<p>Al Pereira/Getty</p> Bo$$ in New York City in October 1992

Al Pereira/Getty

Bo$$ in New York City in October 1992

The hip-hop artist subsequently secured a record deal on the West Coast division of Def Jam — making her the first woman to do so — and received acclaim with the release of her 1993 debut Born Gangstaz. The album, which featured a long list of major producers like Jam Master Jay, Def Jef, and others, went on to reach the No. 3 spot on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The track “Deeper” also peaked at No. 1 on the Hot Rap Tracks.

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Bo$ was lauded for the hardcore gangster style of her music, which often incorporated irony. According to a 2004 interview with The Detroit Metro Times, despite the album’s first bout of rave reviews, her satire was lost on some critics who called into question her “gangster” status.

<p>Al Pereira/Getty</p> Bo$$ performing in New York City in November 1992

Al Pereira/Getty

Bo$$ performing in New York City in November 1992

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She told the outlet, “Critics started f---ing with me, sayin’ ‘She’s from a middle-class neighborhood, how can she be gangsta?’ Ya know I killed a million n----s on that record. They weren’t getting it. There’s gangsters all over the place — ones that went to Harvard in the business world.”

The musician's sophomore album was set to be released on Def Jam, per Detroit Metro Times, but they rejected her demos and she was dropped by the label — ultimately, never releasing a follow-up.

The “Recipe of a Hoe” rapper eventually relocated to Texas where she worked as a radio DJ, releasing some music on the side and focusing on her health following a 1999 kidney failure.

Law previously told The Detroit Metro Times that she had aspirations to release another full-length project. She said, “When my record comes out I’m gonna pack up my kidney pills — the 45 I have to take every day — and go wherever."

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