Christopher Charles Thurston died the same way he lived.
"I grew up in Queens, been saggin' my jeans/
People always wanna know just what Binkis means/
Before Ignorant Niggas Killed Intelligent Songs/
But hold on, it won't be that for long ... "
Slightly past midnight on Tuesday morning, Nov. 4, Thurston, the 32-year-old MC known as "Jax" of Atlanta's legendary underground hip-hop crew Binkis Recs, spit those fateful rhymes into a live mic.
Then, after a final plea – "hold up, hold up, hold up" – he collapsed onstage in the middle of his performance at Lenny's Bar. He was pronounced dead soon after being rushed to nearby Grady Hospital.
The autopsy conducted by the Fulton County Medical Examiners Office concluded that Jax died of natural causes related to hypertension. In the world of hip-hop, such an untimely exit assures entry into its pantheon of fallen angels.
Dying young is still as tragically hip as it was more than 50 years ago when Hollywood actor James Dean succumbed from a head-on car collision at age 24. But Jax was no "rebel without a cause." Nor was he a Tupac Shakur or a Notorious B.I.G., a Jam Master Jay or an Eazy-E. Neither a Big Pun nor an Ol Dirty Bastard. He is, however, an unsung hero of the underground, where passion seldom pays the bills but serves as its own reward. Or, so they say.
Besides his newlywed wife Lisa, and hundreds of unreleased songs that earned him the title Jax the Catalog, Thurston leaves behind some necessary soul searching for those within the culture. Certainly, his passing could signal its very end. Or Jax's death just might rouse the snoozing spirit of a bygone era in Atlanta's indie rap scene.