New Orleans rapper Tim Smooth died early Tuesday (July 26) at age 39, after a long battle with cancer, according to The Times-Picayune.

Smooth, born Tim Smoot and known as “the Knight from Kennedy Heights,” released his first single in 1991 called “I Gotsta Have It,” eventually dropping albums on Houston’s Rap-A-Lot label, as well as indie labels in New Orleans, establishing himself as a pioneer of New Orleans hip-hop.

Smooth went on to mentor fellow NoLa rapper Mystikal, who told The Times-Picayune “[h]ad I never met Tim, I would be a totally different artist. He even co-wrote the title cut with me on Mind of Mystikal. Thanks for the memories,"

“He never had a fight in his whole life, and he was 39 years old,” said Smooth’s sister, Nicole Smoot. “He was a happy person. He was always cracking jokes, and even with the cancer, he never didn’t have a smile on his face,”

Earlier this year, a donation fund was set up for Smooth, who was suffering from lung cancer but did not have health insurance.

“I hope they remember how he was – he was a friend to everybody, everybody loved him,” Nicole Smoot said. –Martin Spasov