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Musician, teacher, activist Derrick “OOH” Jones dies at 38

June 6, 2014
(Photo by Rarah)

(Photo by Rarah)

Derrick Jones, a musician, teacher and community activist who had an indelible impact on his city, fell ill at his home in Baltimore on Sunday, June 1 and passed away soon after. A cause of death has not yet been released. He had celebrated his 38th birthday just a few days earlier.

Jones, better known as OOH, had been a major figure on the Baltimore hip hop scene since forming the group Brown F.I.S.H. More recently, Jones had released music as a solo artist under the name Yo Slick. All the while, Jones maintained a parallel career as in education and youth outreach, teaching at Gilmor Elementary for a decade before being appointed in 2011 as the director of the Baltimore Youth Advocate Program.

Jones formed Brown F.I.S.H. with a fellow student at Coppin State University, Jahiti, and they remained the core of a large cast of rappers and musicians over the group’s 15-year history. “One day he was coming out of one educational building, I was coming in, he had a book in his hand, I said ‘Hey, what are you reading?’” Jahiti says of the day they became friends, and wound up teaching together as well as becoming musical collaborators. Jahiti was in Florida visiting his grandmother at the time of Jones’s death, and flew back home, though he remembers his last interaction with his friend and bandmate. “He sent me a message saying he’s trying to get a game of Monopoly going. We are serious Monopoly players.”

Although the group was at one point courted by Def Jam Records, Brown F.I.S.H. opted to build a dedicated grassroots following in Baltimore, playing hundreds of performances at local clubs and festivals and distributing self-released ‘bootleg’ recordings. Jones, who rapped with dark sunglasses and gold gleaming from his teeth, was a charismatic stage presence who always found ways to turn his lofty intellectual interests into exciting, entertaining music.

Jones’s crowning achievement with the Youth Advocate Program was the #SaveADopeBoy campaign, a work readiness program that encouraged companies to hire youths in the juvenile justice system who might otherwise turn to selling drugs. Merging his work with his art, the Yo Slick single “Dope Boy” promoted the program while helping to raise funds for it.

In the past year, Jones had visited Annapolis to discuss his program with Governor O’Malley, and to the White House to meet with the president’s administration. “Mr. Jones taught his students from the center of his heart,” says Dr. Jo Ann Cason, who was principal at Gilmor Elementary when Jones was a teacher there. “He spent his time and shared his life with his students.”

News of Jones’s passing on Sunday didn’t spread until Tuesday, and on Wednesday night a vigil was held at NowChild Soundstage, an East Baltimore venue where Jones had performed and hosted many events. Hundreds of friends and fans turned out to hear Brown F.I.S.H. perform, for the first time without a key member, and to share stories  about Jones and cope with the sudden, shocking loss. Derrick Jones is survived by his fiancée and their 4-year-old daughter. “I’m happy that I know for a fact that he knew he was loved,” says Jahiti.

  • LaTonya Lawson

    RIP Derrick. The City College Family will miss you!

  • Wisdom

    Rest in power to a friend, comrade, and influence. I will forever cherish the memories of OOH as the dope musician, teacher, youth advocate, and leader of a Hip Hop movement for Charm City and beyond. His transition to the essence will not be in vain, as the vast outpouring of love and support is evident on social media and in personal contact. From NC I send my deepest sympathies to the family and friends. May Derrick Jones’ legacy live on through infinity. Ashe.

  • imatellmuva

    Derrick Jones was revered throughout Baltimore…and beyond. He was a man who wore his heart on his sleeve, who was charismatic, an exceptional performer, and loyal friend to all who knew him. His dedication and commitment to an improved quality of life for youths in the juvenile justice and foster care system was far reaching. I was privileged to have worked with him at Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. and even more privileged to be one of his many friends. We lost more than a friend, we lost a hero, a dynamic man…a leader who lived to love…his community…all communities, and the people in them.

  • Last Born Child

    Rest in peace OOH. You are the prime example for our youth to follow. You have countless awards and achievements but you were always grounded and in tune with the your people and the community you came from. That is the definition a true champion. #SaveADopeBoy

  • Profound

    RIP Ooh u were the best and god has called home an incredible angel! Im gonna bump that Fish Bowl album till i DIE! Your man Profound -Gritty Gang

  • sabrinafor mumia

    My word!!! I had was on a page of some up north to get the word; he did so much and prayers blessings to his loved one which of course those of Nowchild Soundstage Judah Jahiti et al RIP

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  • PTA

    He taught one of our MANDT trainings at YAP and gave me his mixtape. I’ve been banging it lately and decided to see if he had a show coming up, sadly this is what I found. I only met you a few times, but your training was fantastic, still the best YAP training to date and your music is indescribable.

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