Ray J on Whitney Houston: "I'll Miss You So Much!"

The singer's on-again, off-again boyfriend speaks out about his "close friend" for the first time since her Feb. 11 death

Six days after Whitney Houston's death at the age of 48, her on-again, off-again boyfriend Ray J has broken his silence.

"Over the past few days, I've tried to process the emptiness that I am experiencing. What my heart feels cannot be expressed in words," he told Us Weekly in a statement Friday.

"The world lost an icon, but I lost my close friend," the 31-year-old rapper (and brother of Brandy) continued. "Nippy, I miss you so much! You were so happy and full of love. Your smile will live in my heart forever."

According to Us, Houston and Ray J were spotted cuddling together at Tru nightclub in Los Angeles on Feb. 9. Whitney took to the stage at the trendy club that night for her final singing performance, joining 38-year-old singer Kelly Price on a duet of the Christian hymn "Jesus Loves Me."

Whitney Houston's funeral service -- which is being televised and streamed live on the Web -- will be held Saturday, Feb. 18, at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J. It's the same church where Houston first shared her singing gift with the world as a member of the choir.

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