Kansas City hip hop artist and producer Justin "Info Gates" Gillespie, 39, died unexpectedly at the end of January. Those who loved him are reeling but not at a loss when explaining how Gillespie will live on.
"He was not shy about uplifting people in whatever way possible," says Kemet Coleman, a member of the Phantastics and a friend of Gillespie.
"Info embodied the idea of sharing knowledge on his sleeve and was not pretentious at all about any concepts, ideas that he felt were great for the advancement of music in general and for the local hip hop scene in Kansas City," Coleman says.
In his work as producer and beat maker for the rap duo Ces Cru, Gillespie was high-level enough that he could have taken off for one of the coasts.
Coleman says his friend didn't operate that way, though; he wanted to keep his talent, and the talent of those he collaborated with, in Kansas City.
Mike "Ubiquitous" Viglione of Ces Cru had worked with Gillespie since about 2008. He says that before Gillespie died on January 30, he lost consciousness after unexplained seizures and could not be resuscitated.
Viglione says Gillespie created beats that Ces Cru used across their projects, citing "Klick Clack Bang," a live recording at Strange Music with more than 4.7 million YouTube views, as one example of their work together:
Viglione said Gillespie had a huge catalogue of music and beats, much of it unreleased.
"He had a wealth of talent that was somewhat undiscovered. He had a little underground following, but I think that it would be cool if people found his music," Viglione says. "It would be cool if people found him after the fact even if he's not around to enjoy it."
Future generations will undoubtedly discover some of that music through students Gillespie worked with at the Beat Academy of Kansas City, which Gillespie founded three years ago at the Plaza Academy.
"The idea was to create a scenario where at-risk students were able to create music and get their minds off of some of the things, the harsh realities of their lives," Coleman says.
Initially, Gillespie focused on training elementary through high school-aged students in the art of hip hop. The program was so popular it expanded to students outside of the charter school and even to adults.
Coleman says that Gillespie's efforts in the classroom showed that he was a great steward of hip hop — he understood his students needed a "productive escape."
"Those sentiments there are actually what hip hop was founded on: being an escape and an exciting thing to come to and a productive thing to do," Coleman says.
At bottom, he says, Gillespie simply had the great ability to inspire students to pursue music without leaving Kansas City.
"A lot of art students in the city think they have to go elsewhere, and sometimes you do," he adds, "but you can also create something magical right here in Kansas City. There's so much opportunity."
Kemet Coleman spoke with KCUR on a recent edition of Central Standard. Listen to the entire conversation here.