Eddie Cheeba, New York DJ regarded as a pioneer of hip-hop, dies at 67

Eddie Cheeba stands among people wearing a tracksuit and a black cap to the side and holding a microphone to his mouth
Hip-hop pioneer Eddie Cheeba, shown speaking at a function in New York in 2021, has died. He was 67.
(Johnny Nunez / WireImage)

Eddie Cheeba, a New York-area DJ who is regarded as a founding father of hip-hop, has died. He was 67.

Def Jam founder Russell Simmons announced Cheeba’s death Tuesday on Instagram, crediting the DJ as a source of early inspiration. Simmons saw Cheeba, whose real name is Edward Sturgis, rap over instrumental tracks at a Harlem club in 1977.

“It wasn’t a sophisticated rhyme flow by current standards,” Simmons, now a controversial figure facing numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, recalled in Carrie Golus’ 2012 biography, “Russell Simmons: From Def Jam to Super Rich.”

Simmons said that Cheeba’s music made him feel like he’d “just witnessed the invention of the wheel.” The hip-hop mogul added that the performance made him realize he wanted a career in hip-hop music.

Simmons kept up with his inspiration, writing on Instagram in October, “PRAYERS UP The great eddie cheba is in the hospital.”

Then this week, Simmons posted a video eulogizing his friend, saying that Cheeba was part of a DJ trio — alongside DJ Hollywood and Lovebug Starski — who were integral in the creation of recorded hip-hop. Lovebug Starski died in 2018 at the age of 57.

“The public didn’t know and his family never got the satisfaction of knowing how integral a part he was in the growth of hip-hop,” Simmons said in the video.

He later added that without Cheeba, along with DJ Hollywood and Lovebug Starski, “There would be no hip-hop records.”

In the caption accompanying the video, Simmons wrote that though people “didn’t compensate or celebrate him properly in life,” he hoped they would “look back and promote his legacy for the current and future generations.”


The National Hip-Hop Museum, which was name-checked in Simmons’ video, did just that in its remembrance, acknowledging Sturgis’ contributions to hip-hop. “RIP DJ Eddie Cheeba who was a pioneering DJ in New York in the 1970s, considered to be the number one club DJ,” said the caption on the museum’s Instagram post.

The museum’s post offered more of the history lesson, saying that Cheeba was also an inspiration for rap stalwart Kurtis Blow.

“Cheeba is credited with inspiring Def Jam Recordings founder, @unclerush to pursue a career in hip-hop when Simmons heard Cheeba perform in Harlem in 1977. Kurtis Blow took his name imitating Cheeba at the suggestion of Russell Simmons, copying the pattern from Eddie Cheeba as ‘blow’ was a force of power as ‘cheeba’ was slang for marijuana.”

Other tributes came from hip-hop festival Rock the Bells, Parish Smith of EPMD (who shared a video of Cheeba proclaiming his claim to fame as an “originator”) and others.

Despite his influence pushing hip-hop forward, Sturgis released only one record during his career, the 1979 rap-disco hybrid “Lookin’ Good (Shake Your Body)” on Tree Line Records.