Rapper Joe C. Dies

Joe C., Kid Rock’s diminutive rapping sidekick, died in his sleep Thursday evening at his Taylor, Mich., home, according to an Atlantic Records press release.

Born Joseph Calleja, Joe C., 26, was afflicted since childhood with an intestinal disorder known as celiac disease. The disease prevented the rapper from growing above the height of 3’9″, a fact that Joe C. proudly proclaimed in one of his rap songs.

Rock added Joe C. to his lineup in 1994 after discovering that Joe C. was a longtime fan who knew all of Rock’s lyrics. In 1998, Joe C. appeared on Kid Rock’s hit disc “Devil Without a Cause” and toured in support of the album as part of Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker band.

Before his death, Joe C. reportedly was working on a solo album. Although he had to limit his touring and appearances due to his health, Joe C. was able to play at several dates on this year’s Summer Sanitarium tour, featuring Rock, Metallica and Korn.

In an official statement, Rock said: “We have lost part of our family. Joey gave us and the world his love. … He gave us the gift of joy. Joey, thank you. We will never forget you. We love you.”

(POSTED: 11/19/00 at 2 p.m. ET)