10 Rappers Who Died At The Peak Of Their Success

Whether it be the tough-talking rhymes over a heavy base rhythm or the culture of parading your wealth in the form of opulent cars, clothing, and jewelry and using misguided machoism to prove one’s street credit; hip-hop and rap music has become overshadowed with a dark cloud of death for many decades. The history of rap battles was designed to humiliate your opponent in the worst way possible using punchlines and metaphors, and in doing so, one would win the war of words. The hip-hop music genre has seen its share of rappers who died at the peak of their success and is probably the only genre to experience this as commonplace.

10 Young Dolph

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The most recent tragic and untimely death by gun violence is that of Adolph Robert Thornton Jr. or Young Dolph. Born in Chicago in 1985 but later moving to Memphis with his younger brothers to live with his grandmother, he found himself initiated into a life of illicit drug dealing and gang affiliation at an early age. But despite his harsh upbringing, he was determined to be more than the average corner spot drug dealer by using his natural talent in rhyming and the shrewd business tactics he learned in the streets. He released multiple albums as well as owned multiple properties, bringing his net worth to $3 million. On November 17, shortly after the release of his album sequel Dum and Dummer 2, 36-year-old Young Dolph was fatally shot in the same neighborhood he claimed to be king of.

9 Nipsey Hussle

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Possibly one of the biggest upsets in the music industry in recent times was the death of Nipsey Hussle. Born Airmiess Joseph Asghedom in Los Angeles, California, Nipsey’s story of being negatively impacted by his surroundings while growing up is similar to that of many other rappers. Similar to Snoop Dogg, Nipsey was a gang affiliate with the notorious gang of Crips in Los Angeles, who are known for wearing blue. His life, which started out with gang violence, drug dealing, and the gift of music, ended with him becoming a legitimate entrepreneur and finding musical success, even collaborating with big names like Drake and Diddy. But on March 31, the streets reigned ruthless when the rapper was gunned down in front of his store, Marathon Clothing, on March 31 2019. He was only 33 at the time of his death.

8 King Von

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Given the name Dayvon Daquan Bennett at birth but professionally known as King Von, the young Chicago rapper perished at the tender age of 26 while he was emerging as a star rapper. King Von was a member of the O Block Gang in Chicago, as he expressed clearly in the album he released just one week prior to his devastating death, titled Welcome To O’ Block. Von’s style was heavily influenced by the drill era of Chicago rap, and his songs often told stories of the violence, murder, and law evasion that occurred in his neighborhood. Although bred in the same state as famed rapper Kanye West, it’s clear that Von’s rap style, life experience, and fan base were completely different.

7 FBG Duck

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Rapper F.B.G. Duck, formally known as Carlton Weekly, was also a native of the Chicago area. And similar to King Von, he was a known gang affiliate-turned rapper, but he represented the Gangster Disciples street gang. According to news sources, Duck, who died on August 4, 2020, was 26 at the time of his death, was standing on a sidewalk when four masked gunmen opened fire, shooting the hometown rapper multiple times. He was announced dead the same day. Duck had multiple album releases but became popular with his 2018 hit single, “Slide.” It is believed that the shooting was gang-related since Duck’s Gangster Disciple gang is often at war with the Black Disciples gang of South Side Chicago. And just like that, another one bites the dust.

6 Pop Smoke

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Another rapper who perished in 2020 was Bashar Barakah Jackson, better known as Pop Smoke. Possibly one of the youngest rappers to die on this list at just 20-years-old, Pop Smoke became known as a pioneer of the Brooklyn drill music scene, rising to fame with his hit singles Welcome to the Party and Dior and was well on his way to changing the sound of Brooklyn rap. As a native of Canarsie in Brooklyn, he found himself involved in criminal activity at an early age, which he participated in as a means of survival. In February 2020, Pop Smoke was shot and killed following a home invasion gone wrong. Sources also say that Smoke, a member of the Woo Gang in Brooklyn, was experiencing gang-related issues days before his death.

5 XXXTentacion


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Rapper XXXTentacion, legally named Jahseh Onfroy, was born in 1998 in Plantation, Florida. Unlike many of the ill-favored deaths of young rappers, XXXTentacion’s music did not overtly glorify materialism or violence but was more of a guttural confessional of rap infused with emo and punk rock. In other words, he used music as a channel for every dark thought and painful experience he ever encountered in life. This unorthodox style attracted fans, and hit singles like Look At Me and Moonlight rose the charts. However, Tentacion is not without fault, as he was arrested on charges of false imprisonment and assault and battery of a pregnant woman, his girlfriend. HIs chaotic life came to a halt on June 18, 2020, after being shot in broad daylight in his black BMW in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

4 Big Pun

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If you’re a fan of hip-hop in its original form, then you would be a fan of Big Pun. The Latino artist was born Christopher Rios in 1971 in the Bronx, New York. Pun carried the flag of his Puerto Rican heritage proudly and became the first Latino rapper to go platinum. His story was not one of gang violence or street feuds but of raw talent, opportunity, family, and bad habits formed through trying to cope with life’s situations. Big Pun was an avid reader who developed a love for rapping. He was discovered by rap mogul Fat Joe of terror squad, who recognized him for his complex and skillful rhyming, as well as his ability to rap for long periods without taking a breath. However, at only 28 and weighing 700 pounds, Big Pun died of heart failure before reaching the peak of his career.

RELATED: Gang Violence or Simply Jealousy: Rapper Young Dolph Shot and Killed

3 Notorious B.I.G.

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“I love it when you call me Big Poppa!” Christopher Wallace, professionally known as The Notorious B.I.G., or Biggie Smalls, was a Brooklyn, New York native who became popular in Bed Stuy (Bedford-Stuyvesant) for his legendary rap skills. Similar to Big Pun, Biggie Smalls was larger in girth but still enjoyed rhyming. He was first recognized by The Source Magazine for his deep baritone voice, rhythmic flow over the beat, and effortless storytelling of the hardships of street hustling. Eventually, he signed to Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs Bad Boy Records and had begun to really come into the limelight. But rivalry with a former friend and rap associate, Tupac Shakur, spiraled out of control. In 1997, at the age of 24, Biggie Smalls was gunned down in Los Angeles.

2 Yaki Kadafi

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As a part of The Outlawz music group formed by rapper, actor, and activist Tupac Shakur, Yaki Kadafi, legally known as Yafeu Akiyele Fula, was not only a fellow rapper but was also Tupac’s godbrother. Other members of the Outlawz included Kastro, Hussein Fatal, Napoleon, Mussolini, and Tupac himself as Makaveli. Kadafi was instrumental in Tupac’s life, sort of like his right-hand man. He made feature appearances on many of Tupac’s albums, such as All Eyez on Me, Me Against The World, Still, I Rise, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, and Until The End of Time. Months after the death of Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas, Yaki Kadafi was reportedly found dead in an apartment building in Orange, New Jersey. It is believed that the death was related to the West Coast and East Coast feuds born out of Tupac and Biggie’s personal disputes.

1 Tupac Shakur

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Likely to be regarded as the most shocking and upsetting rapper deaths of all was that of Tupac Shakur. Born to a mother who was a Black Panther activist, Tupac knew first-hand of the injustices faced by marginalized, low-income black neighborhoods. Compelled to carry on the desire for justice and relaying the hardships of street life in his music, he found monumental success through many albums recorded and hit singles such as Changes, Dear Momma, and Keep Ya Head Up. He also transitioned to Hollywood and had a penchant for acting, starring in movies like Poetic Justice alongside Janet Jackson and Juice with Omar Epps. However, his success also brought enemies and rivalry with East Coast rappers Biggie Smalls and Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs, who he believed shot him five times in 1994. Eventually, in 1996, Tupac Shakur was shot and killed after leaving a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas. He was only 25 with a bright future ahead.

READ NEXT: XXXTentacion’s Music Soar In Wake of His Passing

Sources: Biography.com, XXLMag, The Atlanta Journey

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