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12 Rappers We Lost Way Too Soon

  /  03.06.2024

Hip Hop has seen its fair share of tragedies, with the untimely deaths of several prominent rappers creating a void in the music industry and in the hearts of fans worldwide. Whether it was a drug overdose, fatal shooting or being at the wrong place at the wrong time, these artists were taken way too soon, often at the height of their careers. The passing of Nipsey Hussle, Mac Miller and Young Dolph not only signified a loss of talent but also highlighted the often harsh realities and challenges faced in the industry and in entertainers’ personal lives.

This listicle pays tribute to the rappers whose lives and careers were cut short, leaving a lasting legacy in the genre. From pioneering artists such as Pop Smoke and Speaker Knockerz to rising stars like Big Scarr, each had a profound impact on their fans. Their contributions — both musically and philanthropically — continue to resonate, reminding us of their potential.

1. Big Scarr

On the path to becoming another one of Memphis’ burgeoning rap stars, Big Scarr died on Dec. 22, 2022 at the age of 22. The cause of death was revealed to be an accidental drug overdose of prescription pills. 

Scarr’s career ascended after signing with Gucci Mane’s 1017 Records. His 2021 debut label mixtape, Big Grim Reaper, featured collaborations with artists like Foogiano, Enchanting, Tay Keith and Pooh Shiesty. Surefire tracks like “MJ” and the Offset-assisted “Fantasy” were spawned in its follow up, Big Grim Reaper: The Return. Before his untimely passing, he was preparing to go on Key Glock’s “Glockoma Tour” and put out his first studio album.

Gucci expressed his grief on Instagram, posting a series of images of Scarr performing. Elsewhere, frequent collaborators like Seddy Hendrinx, NLE Choppa, and BIG30 mourned the loss of the musician. 

2. Pop Smoke

Pop Smoke was shot and killed during a home invasion in Hollywood Hills on Feb. 19, 2020. The 20-year-old was at a rented property when five intruders, using an address posted on his Instagram, entered his residence. According to reports, he was confronted in the shower and shot multiple times, including in the back. The “Welcome To The Party” hitmaker was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Per TMZ, in 2023, one of four men charged got sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter. 

Before he died, Pop was widely credited for catapulting New York drill rap into the mainstream. “Dior” and “Shake the Room” featuring Quavo served as some of his earlier hits. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn artist’s posthumous debut LP, Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon, was released in July 2020. It included hit records like “What You Know Bout Love,” “Mood Swings,” “The Woo” featuring 50 Cent and Roddy Ricch, and “Got It On Me.” Pop was truly on the way to becoming a mainstay in Hip Hop.

3. Nipsey Hussle

Nipsey Hussle was murdered outside his Marathon Clothing Store in Los Angeles on March 31, 2019. The man responsible, Eric Holder Jr., was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 2023. The Grammy-nominated artist rose to prominence via mixtapes like The Marathon and Crenshaw, the latter of which JAY-Z bought 100 copies of for $100 a piece. 

In 2018, Hussle released his debut album, Victory Lap. It boasted pre-release singles and fan-favorites such as “Last Time That I Checc’d” featuring YG, “Grinding All My Life” and “Rap N**gas.” Diddy, Kendrick Lamar, Buddy, Dom Kennedy and CeeLo Green were among the additional features.

Hussle is survived by two children — Emani and Kross — and his partner, actress Lauren London.

4. Juice WRLD

Juice WRLD died on Dec. 8, 2019, just six days after his 21st birthday, following a medical emergency at Chicago’s Midway International Airport. He suffered a seizure during a federal search of his luggage and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

His girlfriend revealed his Percocet use and drug problem to agents, leading to the administration of Narcan, an opioid overdose reversal drug. Despite regaining consciousness, Juice was declared dead at the hospital. The rapper rose to fame with SoundCloud hits like “OLD ME” and “All Girls Are The Same.” His $3 million Interscope Records deal was followed by his debut album, Goodbye & Good Riddance, featuring the hit “Lucid Dreams.” His second album, Death Race for Love, topped the Billboard 200 in 2019. It boasted hit records like “Bandit” with YoungBoy Never Broke Again and “Robbery.”

5. King Von

King Von was fatally shot on Nov. 6, 2020 outside Atlanta’s Monaco Hookah Lounge at the age of 26. The incident occurred after a confrontation between the Chicago native’s group and that of rapper Quando Rondo. Timothy “Lul Tim” Leeks was initially charged with the killing.

After posting bond in March 2021, Leeks was expected to stand trial. However, on Aug. 20, 2023, his attorney Noah Pines announced the dismissal of all charges. It effectively ended the trial process and brought the investigation into Von’s death to a standstill, with the state of Georgia closing the case.

Von’s second posthumous project came out in July 2023. Spanning 17 tracks, Grandson contained collaborators from his hometown, such as G Herbo, Polo G and Lil Durk. 42 Dugg, Tee Grizzley, Hotboii and Tink also made appearances.

6. Takeoff

Takeoff was killed in a shooting outside Houston’s 810 Billiards & Bowling on Nov. 1, 2022. The artist was attending a private event with his uncle and fellow Migos member, Quavo, when a dice game reportedly escalated into gunfire. Although not involved in the dispute, Takeoff was fatally hit while two others were left injured.

The Harris County medical examiner classified the incident as a homicide. Patrick Xavier Clark was charged with Takeoff’s murder and released on a $1 million bond. The rapper’s contributions to Migos included four albums and numerous mixtapes. His solo album, The Last Rocket, came out in 2018, and his collaborative LP with Quavo, Only Built for Infinity Links, debuted in October 2022.

7. Young Dolph

Young Dolph was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee while visiting Makeda’s Homemade Cookies on Nov. 17, 2021. Witnesses reported that the assailants, in a white Mercedes-Benz, opened fire on the rapper, who was in town for a turkey giveaway before Thanksgiving.

Justin Johnson, 23, and Cornelius Smith, 32, were indicted on first-degree murder charges, pleading not guilty in the Shelby County Criminal Court. Born in Chicago and raised in Memphis, Dolph gained popularity with 2014’s “Preach,” followed by his appearance on O.T. Genasis’ “Cut It” in 2015. The artist also released fan-favorites such as the T.I.-assisted “Foreva,” “100 Shots,” “Play Wit Yo’ B**ch” and “Major.”

The city of Memphis honored his legacy by renaming a street Adolph “Young Dolph” Thornton, Jr. Avenue and declaring Nov. 17 the Dolph Day of Service. The late Memphis legend left behind seven albums and several mixtapes, including 2021’s Dum and Dummer 2 with frequent collaborator Key Glock.

8. Mac Miller

Even years after Mac Miller’s death on Sept. 7, 2018, his impact on the music industry and fans alike continues. The rapper died from an accidental overdose involving alcohol, cocaine and fentanyl-laced oxycodone, as reported by the LA County Coroner’s Office. Stephen Walter, one of the individuals who supplied the “Weekend” hitmaker with the fatal drugs, was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Miller gained fame in the early 2010s and was part of the XXL Freshman Class of 2011, alongside artists like Kendrick Lamar and Meek Mill. The year before that, he put out K.I.D.S., which spawned fan-favorites such as “Nikes On My Feet” and “The Spins.”

Miller’s final album, Swimming, was released just weeks before his passing and was RIAA-certified double platinum in 2023. It housed records like “Self Care” and “Come Back to Earth.” His estate has preserved his legacy through vinyl releases for Faces and Macadelic (10th Anniversary Edition).

9. Speaker Knockerz

Speaker Knockerz was found dead at age 19 in his Columbia, South Carolina home on March 6, 2014. The artist rose to popularity via hit records like “Lonely” and “Freak H**,” which collectively amassed 270 million views on YouTube.

He began his music career as a beatmaker, producing Meek Mill’s “Tony Montana” as well as Gucci Mane and Young Scooter’s “Re Up.” Knockerz went on to release several projects of his own, including Married to the Money. “Money,” “Flexin & Finessin” and his “Rico Story” trilogy were among his other standout records.

It was initially reported that Knockerz had a heart attack induced by a codeine syrup overdose. However, his mother addressed speculation over his death during a 2023 interview with the “Drea O Show.” She stated, “That’s not what happened to him.” Since his passing, artists like Soulja Boy, Kevin Gates, Lil Tecca and OhGeesy have paid homage to the late rapper.

10. XXXTENTACION

XXXTENTACION was killed during a robbery outside of a Deerfield Beach, Florida automotive store on June 18, 2018. Three men — Michael Boatwright, Dedrick Williams and Trayvon Newsome — were found guilty of first-degree murder and armed robbery. The incident occurred as the then-20-year-old artist left RIVA Motorsports, where the assailants blocked his vehicle, shot him and fled with $50,000 in cash.

He rose to fame with his 2015 viral hit “Look at Me,” which was RIAA-certified five-times platinum in 2023. X’s 2018 album, ?, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, with the single “SAD!” reaching No. 1 on the Hot 100. Posthumously, the musician’s estate put out Skins in December 2018 and Bad Vibes Forever in 2019.

11. Lil Keed

Lil Keed unfortunately died at 24 from eosinophilia, as reported by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office. In 2022, Keed sought hospital care in LA for severe stomach pain, but his condition deteriorated with multiple organ failures, leading to his death.

Two years prior, the Atlanta rapper released his second studio album, Trapped On Cleveland 3, to positive fan reception. Spanning 19 songs, it housed “She Know” featuring Lil Baby and “Wavy (Remix)” with Travis Scott. Additional features included Young Thug, Quavo, Yak Gotti and Gunna. He previously spawned a number of hit records, like “Nameless” and “HBS.” 

Outside of his solo work, Keed appeared on YSL Records’ Slime Language 2 compilation. He joined forces with Big Sean on “Warrior” and Gunna on “Came Out.” 

12. PnB Rock

PnB Rock was fatally shot during a robbery at a Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles in Los Angeles on Sept. 12, 2022. Dining with girlfriend Stephanie Sibounheuang, the Philadelphia native was allegedly targeted for his jewelry. Unfortunately, the rapper was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital after being struck multiple times.

Freddie Lee Trone and his son were charged in connection with the killing after the pair reportedly spotted Rock entering the eatery. Trone’s wife is also facing charges related to the crime.

Rock gained fame with his 2014 mixtape, Real N**ga Bangaz. Later, he released  “Fleek” and secured a deal with Atlantic Records soon after. Additionally, his hit “Selfish” reached No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2017, he landed on XXL’s Freshman Class alongside the likes of Ugly God, XXXTENTACION and A Boogie wit da Hoodie, to name a few.

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