Orlando Watson produced tracks for hip-hop legends Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and promoted a 2019 concert at the Pageant featuring rising superstar Megan Thee Stallion.
Watson opened an upscale restaurant the year before the pandemic, and not only did he navigate that restaurant through the COVID era’s challenges but he also debuted a second location late last year downtown.
After being declared cancer-free from a 2006 lymphoma diagnosis, Watson founded the annual “I’m a Survivor” cancer benefit event.
More recently, after a second cancer diagnosis, Watson had his left leg amputated. In 2021, he founded the AmpUTeez apparel line “to inspire, uplift & support people with missing limbs globally.”
Watson, a University City native, died this weekend of a sarcoma. He was 48.
“He was really passionate — always, always passionate about … whatever he was into,” said Tony Davis, Watson’s friend since elementary school and business partner in Prime 55 Restaurant & Lounge.
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Watson played several roles in the music industry both locally and nationally. With Bradd Young, he formed the producing and songwriting duo Prettyboy & Bradd Young. Their credits include Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Tyra B and St. Louis’ own Jibbs.
Watson also founded the record label and concert producer and promoter Rockhouse Entertainment. He put on shows featuring such artists as Megan Thee Stallion, Rick Ross, Dru Hill and Kodak Black.
In 2019, Watson added restaurateur to his resume. He and Davis opened the original Prime 55 on the east side of the Delmar Loop.
“We didn’t know what we were doing,” Watson told the Post-Dispatch last year. By last fall, however, well into the second year of the pandemic, Prime 55 was “busier than ever,” he said.
A second Prime 55 opened in December 2021 in the new Le Méridien St. Louis Downtown hotel at 1019 Pine Street.
In fact, the hotel’s developers sought out Watson and Davis for the restaurant space. Watson and Davis initially did not want to undertake the cost of a new location, but the developers made a persuasive pitch.
“And they said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no,’” Watson said. “We did all the heavy lifting for you. It’s done. We just need you to come look at it, and let’s talk.”
Davis said Prime 55’s success has proved that friends such as he and Watson can also be business partners.
“A lot of people say, ‘Don’t do business with your friends,’” Davis said. “But me and Orlando were friends first before we ever did business together. As you can see, we (are) on our second location, so it worked out.”
Watson launched his annual “I’m a Survivor” benefit in 2011.
Reflecting on that inaugural event ahead of the 2012 benefit, he told the Post-Dispatch, “It was 42 degrees and rain. I was surprised anybody showed up. If that was somebody else’s party, with the weather the way it was, I would not have went. But 300 people came out (dressed) in all white in the rain.”
Among Watson’s survivors are his wife, Michelle Watson, and his four children.
Arrangements have not yet been announced.