Californian singer, musician and self-described “disabled disco innovator” Cola Boyy has died, aged 34.

Cola Boyy – real name Matthew Urango – died peacefully on Sunday, March 17, per his label Record Makers on X (formerly Twitter). The label wrote: “He was quite a soul, a man with no age, a childlike spirit with the musicality of an old legend. His lyrics, his melodies, the sound of his voice: every side of his music was unique and timeless…”

Urango’s manager Jack Sills wrote in a separate post on Instagram: “Anyone who knew Matthew knows he had a larger than life personality. He was always the life of the party and could chop it up with anyone. He was also one of the most talented and down to earth people I’ve ever met. His humor and natural charisma endeared him to whoever he met.”

Sills also shared that Urango had “just finished his next album” as Cola Boyy and that the musician “was excited to start releasing new music this summer”. Sills added that he will work with Urango’s family and Record Makers to get Cola Boyy’s music released posthumously.

Matthew Urango was born with several spine conditions, including spina bifida, scoliosis, and kyphosis. In 2018, he began releasing solo music after having played bass in Sea Lions. That same year, Cola Boyy’s debut EP ‘Black Boogie Neon’ was released, and featured the hit singles ‘Penny Girl’ and ‘Buggy Tip’.

Cola Boyy went on to garner the attention of MGMT, who he later toured with, and Air’s Nicolas Godin, who co-founded Record Makers. In 2020, Urango featured on the Avalanches’ ‘We Go On’ from their album ‘We Will Always Love You’. The following year, Cola Boyy released his debut album, ‘Prosthetic Boombox’, which featured the Avalanches, MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden, Nicolas Godin and others.

Urango also worked as an activist advocating for disability rights, as well as for people of colour with the organizations Todo Poder Al Pueblo and APOC (Anarchist People Of Colour).

Cola Boyy performs in 2019. Credit: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Speaking to NME in 2021, Urango said of his advocacy work: “I want to encourage other disabled people not to be so hard on themselves, not to be depressed and angry. I was so angry, growing up, at others around me, and that didn’t solve my problems. That didn’t make me happy. It made me just sour. I want to encourage disabled people that they can do anything and that nothing can defeat them.”

“If you’re disabled or if you’re poor, nothing is ever earned through asking nicely. They’re never going to give us anything when we ask nicely. Reforms and things are won, you have to fight for them and threaten them with, ‘We’re going to keep coming at you. If you take this away, we’re going to come at you harder.’”

Following the news of Urango’s death, several musicians have paid tribute to the late musician. The Avalanches wrote: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend and collaborator Matthew Urango @ColaBoyy. Matthew was the most effervescent, hilarious, talented & passionate guy you could ever meet. He was a man of his convictions and of his word.”

“He will be greatly missed by so many and we send all our love today to his friends and family.”

Chromeo wrote: “We love you and your music, funky friend.”

Urango’s father, Joseph Urango, wrote on Facebook: “Words cannot express the sadness and pain in my heart. Matthew lived his life on his own terms all of his life. Matthew traveled the word performing in so many countries. Cola Boyy’s music is heard all around the world. I’ve attended a few of his performances and as his father felt such deep pride in his accomplishments.”

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