A DISTRAUGHT mum today opened her heart after tragically losing her “hero” son.
Chris Herbert, 21, died after he was found collapsed in a phone box on a Blackpool street.
Today, Melanie Herbert, 40, of Lawson Road, Marton, told The Gazette: “I can’t even explain what he was because to me he was my hero.
“Although I’m older I look up to my son.”
Chris was known across the resort as a talented rapper whose lyrics touched on subjects such as the father and sister he never knew.
He was found in the phone box on Whitegate Drive on Tuesday morning, with flowers now left at the scene as a mark of respect.
An inquest has yet to be opened but it is not being treated as suspicious.
Melanie, who brought Chris up on her own, says the lack of a paternal role model in his life made him determined to care for his younger brother Owen, 12.
She said: “He took the role on of man of the house because he thought he needed to, but he wanted to do it too.
“All the lads said Chris spoke of his brother all the time as ‘his main priority’.”
Chris was born in South Africa, as was his 19-year-old sister Sarah, who now lives in Brisbane, Australia.
He moved to Blackpool as a toddler before she was born and was partially raised by his grandparents in Nottingham.
Sarah was raised in South Africa and grew up with her own father before Melanie returned to the UK, where she eventually moved back to Blackpool with Chris when he was seven.
His family say it was Chris’ ambition to forge a relationship with his long-lost sister and he had her name tattooed on one of his arms, with Owen’s name tattooed on the other.
Grandfather John Herbert, 61, said: “I’ve always had this bond with him because I brought him up, and he used to call me his dad.
“He had a bit of a turbulent life, but he was full of respect for his family.”
Chris went to Thames Primary School, in South Shore, and Palatine College, where he excelled at sports – including football and cricket.
However, his main love was athletics and he ran for Blackpool in middle distance and cross-country events.
His passions later turned to music, and he became a known and respected grime MC in Blackpool, performing under the name Calma.
Melanie said: “He knew exactly what he wanted, for his age he was amazing.
“He lived for his music and he was all about wanting to be the best in his hometown.
“He wanted to get to the top but he just didn’t know how to get there, he needed a break but he never found it.”
An impromptu gathering of more than 100 friends and family was held in South Beach car park on Wednesday evening.
The car park was one of Chris’ regular haunts, where he would go to meet fellow rappers.
A minute’s silence was held followed by the playing of Chris’ track, Hometown.
John said: “It was eerie because the words described how I felt.
“It was absolutely amazing how many people turned up and it’s what he would’ve wanted.”
After leaving school Chris got a job handing out VIP cards at a nightclub in Manchester, which led to him and his friends being invited to take part in the hit BBC show Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents.
Three of his friends who also featured in the show will carry the coffin at his funeral.
Best friend Danny Murphy, 21, of Roselyn Avenue, South Shore, paid tribute to his “outgoing and bubbly” friend.
He said: “He was my brother and the best friend anyone could have asked for.
“We’re all a very tight bunch of mates and for this to happen is devastating.
“He was so popular, especially with the ladies, because of the bags of confidence he had.”
Dean also believes Chris could have made it in the music industry, adding: “His wordplay was phenomenal.”
Chris died in Victoria Hospital after he was found in the phone box by police and paramedics.
Chris’ funeral will take place at Lytham Crematorium, although a date has yet to be set. All are welcome.