QUEENS, New York — One of the saddest things to fans mourning the loss of Stack Bundles is that the shining underground-hip-hop crowd-pleaser wasn't able to realize his potential as a mainstream great. On Monday morning (June 18), as people walked down Linden Boulevard on the way to the J. Foster Phillips Funeral Home, "barbershop talk" spilled over into the streets, including memories of how nice Stack was on the mic and how he should've been talked about in the same breath as rap's current household names — not as another MC to be mourned.
"He was like a Jay, 50 and Nas rolled into one," one man, sitting on the roof of a Ford Explorer, said to his friend. They were playing at full volume an old DJ Clue mixtape in which one of Stack's myriad of freestyles was a highlight. The DJ's voice echoed "Clue, Clue, Clue" as Bundles laced the ambience with punch lines.
Down the block was a white stretch Escalade with "R.I.P. Stack Bundles" written on the black tinted windows.
On Monday morning, DJ Clue was at the service with many of his Desert Storm partners, such as Skane Dollar and DJ Don Juan Demarco. Producers DJ Twins, Joe Budden and Brooklyn MC Maino also came out to join family, fans and other friends in giving Stack a final send-off with a viewing and a funeral.
In the casket, Stack wore a red T-shirt, sunglasses and jeans. Outside, "R.I.P. Stack Bundles" was painted on all types of tees, while others were decorated with pictures of Bundles.
"He looked like himself, they really did him right," one woman who said she is Stack's cousin, said to another after the viewing. Several dozen people were lined up in front of the funeral home to get in, while a couple of dozen more stayed across the street, looking on and playing music. Meanwhile, most of the family and friends had to weather getting through a back entrance that was just as jammed. It was at times very chaotic getting in — the place was packed so tight, in fact, that the front door had to be closed off.
Shortly before the services began, Jim Jones and Juelz Santana arrived in a caravan of cars. Jones wore a black T-shirt, while Santana was clad in a white tee and his trademark bandana, which he removed before entering the funeral home.
"Definitely a lot of supporters out there," Joe Budden said shortly after the funeral. "He was a great guy — great personality, very humble, just a character in his own right. He was very intelligent; book smart and street smart. It's a shame he's gone at such an early age. I'm sure God called him for a reason.
"I made it my business to go out there and show him respect," he continued. "A lot of people came out to show him respect. It was sad, though. I can't even lie: I was disappointed. I just feel bad. It could have been anybody [who was killed] — me, anybody. The fact that he never got the point he was striving to get to was a dream deferred. Damn."
Inside, the minister presiding over the services agreed that life is too short and encouraged the congregation to "tell the person next to you that you love them."
"You know why?" he asked. "We don't know when we might have the opportunity again."
Stack, born Rayquon Maurice Elliott, was killed on June 12 not far from his home in Queens' Far Rockaway neighborhood (see "Jim Jones Associate Stack Bundles Killed"). Police, who are investigating the death, said that the rapper was shot in the head and neck in the early morning as he entered his apartment building. He was 24.
He started to get his name buzzing thanks to DJ Clue's mixtapes, on which he rhymed with everyone from Joe Budden to Fabolous. More recently, Stack became a member of Jim Jones' Dipset ByrdGang, and besides Jones having major plans for him in his camp, Stack had his own crew: the Riot Squad.
Some questioned why Stack still loved the 'hood, but those who knew him said he refused to leave until he could bring everyone with him.
"The Stack Bundles that I knew, I'm 80 percent sure is different than the Stack anyone else knew besides maybe his family," Budden said. "The Stack I knew is very much like myself; he was open-minded and eager to learn. ... Everyone knows about his potential and talent and [swagger], but when I think of Stack and myself's relationship, I think of two young n---as from the urban area that would do any and everything to get out and take all of their people with them. The difference is, I'm old enough to differentiate when to [be in] the 'hood and when not to do it. I don't think Stack was old enough to make those same decisions."
"It's a wake-up call," said Maino, a frequent Stack collaborator. "What's unfortunate about the industry is you get famous before you get rich. Your face is on magazines and your face is on DVD [covers]. Everybody knows you. But you don't really have the money and means to get up and do what you want to do — for some people.
"The 'hood is going to be the 'hood," he added. "People are still hungry and envious over what they perceive to be success. ... When you in the 'hood, you could be doing a'ight, but if some people might feel you're sh---ing on the 'hood because you coming through in your Caddy truck or Benz. People be like, 'He thinks he's all that.' You trying to keep it real, but sometimes you can't keep it real in the 'hood, because it's a lot of ignorance that keeps going [on] there. ... It's certain things you can do, certain things you can't do. Stack's situation reconfirms that."
No arrests have been made in connection with Bundles' death.
"It's sad," said a stoic Lupe Fiasco as he exited the funeral service. "Product of the environment. But you know, honor him. Honor him always. Rest in peace, Stack Bundles."