The rap world has lost one of their own far too soon.
Underground New York City rapper known to the world as Pumpkinhead but born Robert Diaz, died early Tuesday morning at the age of 39. The cause of death is unknown, though the rapper had been admitted to a New Jersey hospital earlier this week for minor surgery, according to reports.
“Just finding out I lost a great friend today. RIP Robert Diaz AKA Pumpkinhead,” Talib Kweli wrote with a photo of his friend on Instagram.
“Robert and I went to PS 282 together in Brooklyn, 4th grade. We then reconnected when he became an MC during the indie era of the late 90s. He signed to Makin Records, I signed to Rawkus. Then PH went on to reinvent himself again in the new battle rap era. He LOVED MCing and was great at it. To lose such a great human being so early in his life, man. No words. There is a fraternity of artists who were around for all of this. PH inspired us all. He will live on thru us even though his physical presence will be missed. RIP Robert Diaz.”
Diaz was a constant presence in the underground rap scene in New York City and became prominent in the city’s well-known rap battle competitions, including Braggin’ Rites and End of the Weak. When he wasn’t perfecting his craft in hip-hop music, PH was a loyal supporter to his fellow rappers.
Pumpkinhead released a number of solo albums—2001’s The Old Testament, 2003’s Beautiful Mind and 2005’s Orange Moon Over Brooklyn—and was also featured on a few collaborative albums, including Immortal Technique‘s Revolutionary Vol. 1 and 2 and Jean Grae‘s The Bootleg of the Bootleg.
“He was one of those guys who would just freestyle in the street for hours, 20 round battles, of merciless bars, and he always had a box of CDs hustling,” Immortal Technique wrote on Facebook. “To say he was a legend was an understatement. PH always had jokes, man. He was never unprepared to tell you about yourself.”
The rapper is survived by his wife, who is expecting a daughter with Diaz, and two sons. His family has requested that any info for tribute shows and fundraising efforts be e-mailed to representatives at the rapper’s label or donated through this YouCaring memorial fund.