What Happened? 7 Popular Artists Who Went MIA At The Peak of Their Fame

June 11, 2012  |  
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First things first: THIS IS NOT A WHERE ARE THEY NOW? if you were wondering. Check back at the end of the week.

Anywho, while most actors, singers and more have chosen to let folks in on every single aspect of their lives thanks to their affiliations with social media sites like Twitter, Tumblr pages, reality television shows, and their quest to make errands a chance for a paparazzi photo op, there are a slew of big name artists who would balk at all that exposure. Some of the biggest names in entertainment over the years dropped albums, TV shows, had huge roles in movies and more over the years, only to disappear off of the face of the earth when the press and the people were calling for them. Why? Well, after reading the most recent issue of GQ, which profiled the rise, fall and re-emergence of D’Angelo, folks like Questlove eloquently explained it as “a crazy psychological kind of stoppage that prevents them from following through. A sort of self-saboteur disorder.”

Or maybe they just weren’t feeling folks all up and through their business and wanted to live like normal folks. Whatever motivates these artists to dip in and out of public view only they know, but we’re always happy when they come back. Here are a few, aside from the obvious Lauryn Hill and D’Angelo, who decided to step out of the spotlight when they were huge, but decided to come back later (before disappearing for a bit again).


After putting out three solid and exceptional albums in the second half of the ’90s and the early Millennium (Urban Hang Suite is one of the albums that ushered in the Neo-Soul movement), the very gorgeous singer disappeared in 2001 to do less touring and recording and more…living. He cut his luscious afro off and went incognito. After years of believing the Neo-Soul-head was going to go the route of LBoogie and D’Angelo and stay gone for long, Maxwell re-appeared in 2008, afro-less, to help do a tribute for Al Green at the BET Awards. From then on, he came back out of hiding, went on a comeback tour (I went to a show in St. Louis. Amazing!!!), and dropped the outstanding album, BLACKsummers’night. That album is supposed to be part of a three-part trilogy that he announced, but we still haven’t seen it. But no worries for now, because the singer recently announced a six-day summer tour across the country that will help him showcase his newest music. Thank goodness!


Think about it, how much do you REALLY know about Sade and her band? She’s definitely the definition of a reclusive musician. Sade will release an epic album, do some touring, and when that’s all said and done, slink back into a life that’s well-hidden from paparazzi and gossip columnists. Don’t believe me? After the ’80s, Sade would release albums every few years, and then a few years became eight years, and eight would turn into a whopping 10-year break. And I haven’t seen her or her band on a red carpet or even trying to pick up their Grammy Awards in Lord knows how long. Lucky for us, when Sade does come out of hiding, the music just gets better and better each time.

Dave Chappelle

Chappelle’s story of super stardom to sabbatical might be one of the biggest ones when it comes to black entertainers. After years of trying to get to the top of the comedic pack, Chappelle was lucky, and talented enough, to receive his own show on Comedy Central. After a solidly funny first season, “Chappelle’s Show” went on to become a household name and a critic’s dream after the second season. This season brought folks hilarious parodies of Prince, Rick James, and who could forget a foul-mouthed Wayne Brady doing his best rendition of Training Day? But I don’t know if it was the pressure to put out an even funnier third season, or more or less the fact that the show was becoming too time consuming (and keeping him from doing stand-up), but Chappelle left during production of the third season. He went to South Africa, came back, and chilled out. Literally. Since leaving all that behind in 2005, Chappelle has made a few appearances since then doing stand-up and getting back to what made him great in the first place. He now lives with his family in Ohio, far, FAR away from crazy a** Hollywood.


Anybody that listened to hip-hop in the ’90s knows about Mase and knows how big he was, and the story behind his retreat from the game, return, and retreat again. “Feel So Good” and “What You Want” were everybody’s jams, right? But after releasing his solo debut, Harlem World in ’97 and the sophomore effort, Double Up in ’99, Mase came out and announced his retirement from the rap game, in the hopes that he could follow the path that God wanted him to go down. Mason Betha even became a preacher! However, he couldn’t stay away from the game long, and came back, with Diddy at that, to do hip-hop, but to do so with a cleaner image. Remember “Welcome Back”? After that, he tried to retire again in 2010, but is making ANOTHER comeback, recently appearing on Wale’s “Slight Work” remix, and throwing around claims that Yeezy wants him to be a part of G.O.O.D. Music. Welcome back…again.

Tracy Chapman

Okay, so maybe Tracy isn’t completely missing from the music scene. She still drops albums occasionally and tours across Europe and the US. But after the release of ’88’s self-titled album with the fan-favorite song “Fast Car” and all the notoriety that came with it, Chapman decided to pump the brakes and take her time releasing new music. She was literally looked at as the woman who pushed other musicians to be socially conscious, so I’m sure the pressure and all the eyes on her couldn’t have been as exciting for a simplistic guitar playing singer-songwriter, as it would have been for a pop-star-in-the-making. After some years had passed from her first release, she quietly came back on the scene in ’92, and slowly but surely got back into the swing of recording (especially in the new Millennium after she took a five-year hiatus). She does a lot of charitable work as opposed to running around getting negative press for doing the most random of things.
Chris Tucker

Chris might not be a Denzel or Morgan Freeman in the making, but around the time that he decided to start being more picky about his film roles, I think we can all agree that he was blowing up and fast. Friday was just the beginning, and he even shined in more dramatic roles via films like Dead Presidents and hilarious turns in his roles in The Fifth Element and in Rush Hour, but after doing that role, Tucker seemed to take a huge break from movies. He finished the Rush Hour trilogy, but aside from that he did a cameo in a Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey video (“You Rock My World,’ and “Shake It Off”) and that was about it. He would only act occasionally (He’s completed three movies since ’98). He wouldn’t even appear in another Friday movie! But it seems that Tucker has changed his mind and will start taking on more roles, including showing up in the upcoming Last Friday movie. Hey, when folks got bills to pay…

Terence Trent D’Arby

Talk about a throwback! And also talk about someone having an epic rise. After D’Arby released the album, Introducing The Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby, it sold over a million copies in three DAYS, and went on to sell more than 14 million copies. He was huge! He followed it with his sophomore effort, Neither Fish Nor Flesh, but that album didn’t do so well commercially, and it was panned by critics. Per the usual formula, the lack of success caused him to retreat from the music scene and the public scene in general for a while. D’Arby eventually stopped recording as Terence Trent D’Arby in by the mid-90s, and changed his name to Sananda Maitreya, and proclaimed, “Terence Trent D’Arby was dead… he watched his suffering as he died a noble death.” It was an attempt to throw shade at the real shadiness of the record industry. These days, Maitreya lives and records music in Italy, and occasionally tours under his new name.

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