GONE TOO SOON…HIP HOP ARTISTS WHO LEFT US BEFORE THEIR TIME
By Tiffany LaShonda Riley
It’s a brand new year , 2014! We already know it’s gonna be another year for hot, anticipated hip hop albums and upcoming artists trying to make their mark in the music world. But sadly, we also know it’s going to be another year that we lose more talented hip hop artists due to violence.
On January 14, 2014, William Fernando Barnes a.k.a DJ Nando (pictured above) was shot in the head in front of his house in Atlanta, GA. His girlfriend Shonte’ Renee ran outside and found him laying in their driveway barely breathing. Shonte’ called 911 and cradled Nando in her arms until he took his last breath. There was a $10,000 reward offered for information leading to the arrest of his murderer.
DJ Nando was very popular in Atlanta, GA. He helped launch the successful music careers of Young Jeezy, Rocko, Future, Migos, Cash Out, and 2 Chainz. DJ Nando was also part of a music clique known as The Coalition DJs. These DJs would help upcoming artists by playing their music in local strip clubs. He was 38 years old.
Just a few weeks prior on December 28, 2013, Glenn Thomas a.k.a DOE-B (pictured above), was shot along with seven others at The Centennial Bar & Grill in Montgomery, AL. He was transported to the local hospital where he later died. DOE-B was a young 22 year old signed to rapper T.I’s label Grand Hustle. He had two mixtape albums, Trap Life (2012) and Baby Jesus (2013). DOE-B also participated on the G.D.O.D (Get Dough Or Die) compilation album in 2013.
Hip Hop artists losing their lives due to violence seems to be an ongoing vicious cycle that can’t be broken. These artists got into the music game mainly because they had a story to tell. Some of these artists that I will be talking about also wanted to show off their craft.
If these artists were still alive, I’m sure many of us would ask the question, “WHERE WOULD HIP HOP BE TODAY?” These artists were very passionate about their work and had a deep level of respect and love for hip hop culture. The next two artists that I will be talking about were, to me, lyrical geniuses. Their untimely deaths have left a void in the hip hop community ………
TUPAC SHAKUR & THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.
Tupac and Biggie were two successful artists in hip hop and at one point good friends. Later on they became enemies when Tupac was shot four times at Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan, NY in 1994. Tupac accused Biggie of knowing who shot him. Biggie denied the claims and said he had no knowledge of what happened to Tupac. Their feud led to the big EAST COAST vs. WEST COAST rivalry . They would both later have an unfortunate violent end of their lives.
Tupac Amaru Shakur a.k.a 2PAC was a west coast rapper/actor signed to Death Row Records. On September 7, 1996, he was shot fives times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, NV. Tupac had a dispute earlier that evening at MGM Grand with crip gang member Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson over a necklace. He was transported to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. Six days later on September 13, 1996 while still in the hospital, Tupac passed away. He was 25 years old.
His death sent shockwaves throughout the hip hop community. Everyone couldn’t believe that a man so gifted and talented was gone. Tupac left behind a music catalog out of this world! His two major hits were “Dear Mama”(Me Against The World album) and “California Love” (All Eyez On Me album). In addition to his six studios albums that he released before his death, Tupac has had seven posthumous albums of unreleased songs. Tupac’s “All Eyez On Me” album is the best selling hip hop album of all time. Tupac is also ranked number two on MTV’s Greatest MC’s of All Time. Biggie was still in disbelief that Tupac was gone. He said in a Rap City Interview on February 24, 1997, “I thought Tupac was going to recover from being shot again and then write some more songs about surviving. But when he passed I was like WHOA!…I don’t wish that on nobody cause there ain’t no coming back from that.” 13 days later, Biggie would meet his own demise.
On March 9, 1997, 24 year old Christopher Wallace a.k.a Biggie Smalls (pictured above) was sitting in a GMC Suburban SUV when he was shot four times in a drive-by shooting. He was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA. He had later died in the hospital. Biggie was killed almost six months after Tupac Shakur’s death. Both murders remain unsolved.
Biggie had one studio album before his death. His first album “Ready To Die” was released in 1994 and was a major hit in hip hop. Three hit songs from the album were “Juicy”, “Big Poppa”, and “One More Chance”. Two weeks after he passed away, his second album “Life After Death” was released. Biggie was signed to Sean “Diddy” Combs’ record label Bad Boy. Biggie was ranked at number three on MTV’S Greatest MC’s Of All Time list. Since his death, there have been three posthumous albums released.
Ever since we lost these two very talented men, you would think the violence would cease. The question that I always ask is “What can be done so that this will never happen again?” I’m still waiting on the answer to that question. In 1999 , the hip hop community once again suffered back to back losses due to violence.
Lamont Coleman a.k.a. BIG L (pictured above) was a rap artist making a lot of noise on the underground hip hop scene. He released his debut studio album “Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous” in 1995. Three years later, he released a single called “Ebonics” that caught the eye of Damon Dash (Former CEO of Roc-A-Fella records). Damon offered BIG L a recording contract with Roc-A-Fella records. BIG L agreed to join the record label but would never get the chance to sign his contract.
On February 15, 1999 , BIG L was shot nine times in a drive-by shooting in Harlem, NY. He was pronounced dead at the scene by EMT personnel. BIG L had two brothers that were incarcerated at the time of his death. It is assumed that the shooting was a retaliation for something they had done. He was only 24 years old. BIG L’s second studio album “The Big Picture” was released on August 1, 2000. Since his death, BIG L has had four posthumous albums released. His murder remains unsolved.
Some people compared BIG L’s death to Tupac and Biggie’s. The three of them were very talented rappers who had a passion for hip hop but did not live to see the age of 30. A month later, it would be another one to add to the list.
Lost Boyz member Raymond Rodgers a.k.a. Freaky Tah (pictured above) was shot and killed on March 28, 1999. Tah was leaving the Sheraton Hotel in Queens, NY on his way to a friend’s birthday party when he was shot in the back of the head. Freaky Tah was known for being the “hype man” for the Lost Boys. He was just 27 years old.
We began the 2000s, and to me, hip hop was going through a “rebuilding” stage. What I mean by that is it seemed like people were looking for something or someone to lead hip hop in the right direction. In 2002 the hip hop community suffered a MAJOR LOSS!!! THE LOSS OF A LEGEND………
JAM MASTER JAY
JAM MASTER JAY, the name itself speaks volumes. Jam Master Jay, whose real name is Jason William Mizell (pictured above), was the DJ and co-founder of the legendary group RUN-DMC. RUN-DMC was a big hip hop group back in the 1980s. They received credit for breaking hip hop into mainstream music with their major hit “Walk This Way” featuring rock band Aerosmith. Jam Master Jay was so good at working the turntables on classic guitar records that SPIN magazine ranked him at number 10 on the “100 Greatest Guitarist Of All Time” list. Jam Master Jay went on to create his own record label, Jam Master Jay records.
On October 30, 2002, Jam Master Jay was in his recording studio in Jamaica, Queens, NY working on music. Two men broke into the studio and started shooting. Jam Master Jay was shot once in the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Word got out about his death and everyone was shocked and in disbelief. His murder remains unsolved. He was 37 years old.
Over a year later on November 26, 2003, 26 year old James Adarryl Tapp, Jr a.k.a Soulja Slim was shot four times in front of his mother’s house in a drive-by shooting in New Orleans, LA. Soulja Slim was once signed to Master P’s No Limit Records. He had two albums, “Give It 2 ‘Em Raw” (1998) and “Streets Made Me” (2001).
Soulja Slim went on to create his own record label, Cut Throat Committee, and released two albums. He had a number 1 hit song with Juvenile titled “Slow Motion”. His murder remains unsolved.
On November 1, 2004, 34 year old Andre Louis Hicks a.k.a Mac Dre (pictured above) was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in Kansas City, MO. Mac Dre performed at a local concert venue the night before. He was a very popular underground rapper from Oakland, California who worked with artists E-40, B-Legit, and Too Short. His murder remains unsolved.
DeShaun Dupree Holton a.k.a PROOF (pictured above) was a member of the rap group D12, and a real close friend of rapper Eminem. On April 11, 2006, PROOF got into an altercation with Keith Bender over a game of pool at The CCC club in Detroit, MI. Club bouncer Mario Etheridge went over to the pool table where the two men were engaged in a heated argument.
Mario fired two shots in the air to get PROOF and Keith’s attention. PROOF reached for his gun and shot back. Mario exchanged gunfire shooting PROOF four times (twice in the head and twice in the back). He died at the scene. He was 32 years old.
Mario Hamilton a.k.a Slim Dunkin was an up and coming rapper with a promising career from Atlanta, GA. He was a member of Brick Squad Monopoly and was a close friend of rapper Waka Flocka Flame. On December 16, 2011, Slim Dunkin got into an altercation with Vinson Hardimon a.k.a Yung Vito at a recording studio in Atlanta.
The two were arguing over a piece of candy. Slim and Vito got into a physical fight . Vito pulled a gun out and shot Slim once in the chest. Slim was rushed to Grady Hospital but was later pronounced dead. He was 24 years old
Yung Vito was arrested for his murder. He went to trial, and on February 26, 2013 was found not guilty of murder. Instead he was found guilty of aggravated assault and possession of a deadly weapon. Yung Vito is currently serving a sentence of 25 years to life.
So what would hip hop be today if these men were still alive? All 11 of them made contributions to hip hop music. I believe some of their deaths could have been prevented. With some, pride got in the way of being able to co-exist, while others were based on the lifestyle that they lived. Either way it goes to show that their presence and love for hip hop will forever be missed.