A Eulogy For Pumpkinhead (R.I.P. Robert Alan Diaz - 1975-2015)
An orange moon hung over Brooklyn last night.
I spent the evening with my Hip Hop family, mourning the loss of a legend – one who I was fortunate enough to not only perform, write, record and tour with, but more importantly, someone who we all would considered a friend. As we congregated on a Brooklyn rooftop consoling each other, commiserating through shared stories, and playing the music he wanted the world to hear into the night air – a celestial phenomenon occurred that left us all in proud befuddlement. An orange moon hung over Brooklyn last night, letting us know that our friend, Robert Alan Diaz (aka Pumpkinhead) had been there – leaving his mark yet again on his beloved borough. Perhaps he subconsciously tapped into some sort of ethereal plane of foreshadowing when he titled his 2005 Marco Polo-produced album Orange Moon Over Brooklyn. Perhaps it was purely a celestial coincidence, but it meant something to us and it was exactly the confirmation from the universe that what we needed.
To say Pumpkinhead was just an underground rapper or a battle rapper is a disservice to the man’s legacy. Pumpkinhead was one of the integral threads that connected the entire NYC hip hop community and beyond. He was down with every reputable crew in the culture, collaborated with anyone worth collaborating with, released classic music, toured constantly and battled his way to a worldwide reputation (before YouTube was even a concept). If you were dope, Pumpkinhead would reach out, build with you and put you on for the sheer pleasure of developing the culture he devoted his life to. You could see through his actions, that beyond all else, he was enamored with Hip Hop culture and participated in every fathomable way. His entire life is his legacy, which should put a lot into perspective for the rest of us rapper-types.
When I first came to NYC, he was the first “big name” emcee that I battled, which was a huge milestone for me that solidified me as a player in the city, because PH was THAT DUDE. He’d come at you with his distinctive raspy aggression with the force of a tank and break you down in ways that would make you question why you ever thought you should be in the same room as him in the first place. He was 100% AUTHENTIC – something we’re sorely lacking in modern rap. He was a monster on street corners acapella and a fucking behemoth with a mic in hand. When PH was on stage – he carried the presence of a titan. As a Latino emcee, this made him even more amazing in my eyes, because he represented his heritage to the fullest for the rest of us. He was the emodiment of everything it meant to be an TRUE EMCEE. Right off the bat, gaining his respect was very important to me.
I was later inducted into The Plague – my NYC crew which consisted of Pumpkinhead, Hydra (LR Blitzkreig, GMS & Wildchild), Extended Famm (PackFM, Substantial & Session), Mr. Mecc, Kameel-Yen, Bad Seed & DP ONE – a huge honor for a skinny kid from Miami who wanted to be down with the best rappers in the city. When I started QN5, he never hesitated to get involved, always returned calls, always showed up for shows and recording sessions – even if just to support us. He believed in us when he didn’t have to and his name carried weight. It meant something to have PH’s co-sign and for that, I’m forever grateful.
Looking back, we cracked so many jokes whenever we hung out and laughed endlessly at the dumbest shit ever. Fortunately, I have many of these moments on video to look back on, such as these caught on the Underscore enhanced CD. From Megashows, to in-stores, you name it – he was always there for his friends. (Skip to 1:29 & 2:37 respectively).
The last long conversation I had with PH, was backstage at a show where we discussed battle rapping, the new format and why I no longer had interest in it. I asked him why he decided to get back into battling after everything he’d built over the years, why put his name & reputation on the line like that when he didn’t have to? He told me that it was still fun for him. He was motivated again. He didn’t have to do it, but he did anyway – because he loved the culture. Period. He spent his entire life recording & performing so much great music, it’s frankly overwhelming. He’d just completed work on a new forthcoming album which he delcared was his finest work yet and was already beginning another (more on that later).
Though, he worked with many big named artists, much of his music was relegated to the underground. You know the drill by now – shady labels, BS managers, flaky promoters – he hit the proverbial underground brick wall with the rest of us. Fuccboi wisdom would have you believe that this meant people didn’t care. That he didn’t make an “impact”, etc. And yet, here we are, a day after his untimely death, with his name ringing through the very publications who perhaps didn’t deem him relevant enough to cover beforehand – from TIME, to CNN, to Rolling Stone, to freaking Perez Hilton. Seeing the outpouring from friends, peers and fans around the world – it’s clear that his impact is undeniable.
Initially, I was sour on the irony of it all. “Oh, NOW you want to cover PH? NOW after all this time?” It took me a bit, but after talking to Pack, Mecc & Wildchild, I let it go. Why? Because, at the very core of it all, after all his work, every bar he wrote, every show he rocked, every battle he won, every hand he shook – his kids need to know who their father was and the impact he made should be recognized. But more than anything else, HE FUCKING DESERVES IT.
RIP. PH. One of the best to ever do it. Thank you for everything you did for me. You will be sorely missed.
PS. Pumpkinhead is survived by his wife and two sons, with a daughter on the way. There is now a memorial fund to make sure that his family is taken care of and all his expenses are covered in this time of need – any help you can give will be greatly appreciated. This includes purchasing his music & merch on Bandcamp. We are also working on a memorial show that will make him proud.
DONATE TO THE MEMORIAL FUND @: BIT.LY/FUNDFORPH
BUY PH’S MUSIC @: [BANDCAMP]