*Chris Smith remembered his Kris Kross hip-hop partner Chris Kelly Thursday as a true friend who he’s sure is in heaven now.
Smith struggled to speak at the pulpit of Jackson Baptist Memorial Church at Kelly’s funeral attended by some 300 friends, family and fellow entertainers, reports the Associated Press.
The 34-year-old Kelly, who had the 1992 hit “Jump” with Smith, was found dead May 1 of a suspected drug overdose. His mother and uncle told authorities Kelly had a history of drug abuse and experienced similar episodes in the past, according to a police report.
“It’s been a struggle for me every day, but there was a peace that came over me this morning because I know he’s in heaven,” Smith said, as tears fell down his face.
Kelly’s mother, Donna Kelly Pratte, continuously wept while she stared at her son’s casket. At the beginning of the service, she pleaded for two of the deacons not to close the coffin.
“Please don’t close it,” she screamed. “Please don’t close it on my baby.”
Before the service began, Smith walked into the church alongside rapper-producer Jermaine Dupri, who discovered the 1990s teen duo, at an Atlanta mall. Smith also talked about the last time he and Kelly performed together at the 20th anniversary of Durpri’s label, So So Def., in late February.
“We had so many memories,” Smith said. “He was a true friend … So I just want to say I love you, man, and I’ll miss you.”
Robert Barber, who described himself as a father figure to Kelly, said Kelly told him that he felt fulfilled after that performance.
“He called me and said, ‘Unc, I feel alive,”‘ Barber recalled.
All of Kelly’s other family and friends from DJ Nabs to his cousin LaToya Wise also had a hard time speaking at the funeral. Each of them said it’s going to take a while to cope with Kelly’s loss.
“It’s supposed to be a celebration, but it’s tough to do that today,” said Wise, who read a poem about Kelly that said he was a fearless character.
Dupri and Da Brat wore their pants backward to pay homage to Kris Kross. Da Brat tried to speak to reporters when she arrived but stopped when she got choked up and went on into the church.
Throughout the nearly two-hour service, numerous photos were shown behind the pulpit of Kelly posing with music legends such as Michael Jackson, Gerald Levert and Patti LaBelle.
Chico Debarge performed, as did two of the four members of the band Xscape, sisters LaTocha and Tamika Scott.