Erica Kennedy, a music writer turned novelist who came to wide attention in 2004 with the publication of her first novel, “Bling,” a satirical roman à clef about the world of hip-hop, was found dead last week at her home in Miami Beach. She was 42.
Her family confirmed the death to The Associated Press but provided neither the cause nor the precise date Ms. Kennedy died.
Published by Miramax Books, “Bling” tells the story of a young, innocent mixed-race woman trying to break into the music business. A gifted singer, she is remade in flashy style by a rapacious record mogul. Ms. Kennedy was reported to have received an advance of half a million dollars for the novel.
“Everybody kept talking about how scandalous that book was,” Ms. Kennedy told The New York Times in 2004. “I really didn’t see the big deal. I knew I could write a story about a P. Diddy party and show these people what scandal is really all about.”
Reviewing “Bling” in The Times Book Review, Sia Michel took it to task for bagginess (it ran to 509 pages) but called it “gleefully trashy.”
“Bling” captured the attention of the news media, partly for its portrayal of a world of flowing Cristal, powder blue Bentleys and platinum teeth, and partly for the fevered guessing game it engendered: Was its hip-hop mogul based on Russell Simmons, a founder of Def Jam Recordings and a friend of Ms. Kennedy’s? Was its foul-tempered supermodel a thinly veiled Naomi Campbell?
On these points, Ms. Kennedy remained discreetly silent.
Ms. Kennedy’s second novel, “Feminista,” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2009. That book, a reworking of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” did not garner the immense attention of “Bling.”
But Ms. Kennedy’s name continued to be included on the small list of writers whose work, which took the tried-and-true genre of chick lit and gave it a specifically black focus, was the logical heir to the novelist Terry McMillan’s. At the end of 2010, Ms. Kennedy was named to the Ebony Power 100, a list of influential African-Americans.
Ms. Kennedy was born Erica Kennedy Johnson on March 24, 1970, and reared in Bayside, Queens. Her father, a pharmaceutical company executive, died when she was 17; her mother was an interior designer.
As a teenager, Erica dated a record producer and through him met Mr. Simmons, who gave her entree into hip-hop circles. (In 1998, Ms. Kennedy was a bridesmaid at Mr. Simmons’s wedding to Kimora Lee.)
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College in 1992, Ms. Kennedy was a publicist for the Tommy Hilfiger fashion house and contributed articles on music to Vibe, InStyle and other magazines.
Ms. Kennedy’s survivors include her mother, Mary Mobley Johnson, and a brother, Kirk Johnson.
By all accounts, the flash Ms. Kennedy portrayed in her fiction had little place in her own life. “My hope is that the next black author gets six figures for this kind of book,” she told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2004. “I just want to be home in sweats and glasses, writing.”
This article, “Erica Kennedy, a Music Writer Who Satirized the Hip-Hop World, Dies at 42,” first appeared in The New York Times