It’s happened again: America wakes up to news that a hip-hop star was fatally and senselessly shot. This time, the rapper is Takeoff of Atlanta’s platinum hit machine, Migos, who was slain early Tuesday in Houston, according to a source close to the group.
Houston police responded to the scene of a downtown shooting at a bowling alley and pool hall, finding one person dead, the department said. Two other victims were taken in private vehicles to hospitals.
Takeoff’s death is the latest in a trend that stretches back to 2018. Each year since then, gun violence – whether through robbery or disagreement – has killed at least one rapper who was either already famous or on the cusp of crossover fame.
The 28-year-old rhymesmith, who was born in Lawrenceville, Georgia, had just released a project with his uncle and Migos bandmate, Quavo, titled, “Only Built for Infinity Links,” the album’s name a shoutout to the 1995 debut solo effort from Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon. Quavo and Takeoff had recently announced they’d be performing under the moniker, “Unc & Phew.”
Hours before he was killed, Takeoff tweeted the video to the single, “Messy,” off the project. On the track, Takeoff rhymes, “Wanna know my moves and all my spots, but I move clever/Wanna know my stash, how much I got, but I ain’t gonna tell ‘em.” On Friday, he tweeted about performing in Miami.
Last month, he and Quavo appeared on the podcast, “Drink Champs,” and in response to praise for his lyricism on “Infinity Links,” Takeoff told listeners, “It’s time to pop it, you know what I mean? It’s time to give me my flowers, you know what I mean? I don’t want them later on when I ain’t here. I want them right now, so …”
In addition to his work with Quavo and Migos, Takeoff released a solo album in 2018, “The Last Rocket,” which hit No. 4 on the US charts.
News of Takeoff’s killing rocked hip-hop, but his loss is being felt well beyond the bounds of music as many chimed in to offer condolences and praise, while others questioned what needs to be done to stop the scourge of rappers being killed.
“Too many young men of color are killing each other,” tweeted Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Resolving their disputes by pulling their guns and shooting one another regardless of fame or fortune. Crazy. And in a few second a life is gone, families and friends are left grieving. STOP!”
Journalist Jewel Wicker offered some additional career insight from an interview with Takeoff’s uncle, writing, “Takeoff, the then-kid who convinced his uncle (Quavo) to start rapping then helped change the flow of rap. The undisputed best rapper in Migos (his uncle told me so himself just a few months ago). What a loss.” She further reported Takeoff earned his stage name from his ability to “just launch into his verses and record everything in a single, pristine take.”
Fellow writer Jemele Hill added, “I was in college when Biggie and ‘Pac were killed and thought there was no way we’d ever experience anything remotely close to that again. Now it’s happening so frequently that you barely have time to recover before someone else killed. RIP Takeoff.”
Rapper Ja Rule felt similarly, writing, “this s**t has to STOP,” while fellow rap star, Lecrae, wrote, “No hot takes. No profound thoughts. Just sad that another rapper, son, brother, and friend has been killed. God be with all those who feel the loss.”
Rolling Stone Editor-in-Chief Noah Shachtman tweeted out a 2015 article in which Takeoff spoke of his dedication to his craft.
“You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t going to be who I was,” he said. “I knew I was going to be here.”
Takeoff now joins the list of rappers who were victims of gun violence. Here are some other notable artists killed since 2018:
XXXTentacion was gunned down June 18, 2018, in an apparent robbery as he left a motorsports store in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
Four men were arrested that year in connection with the rapper’s killing. They were indicted on murder and other charges, and one suspect pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is expected to testify against the other three, CNN affiliate WPLG reported.
The 20-year-old was wildly popular at the time of his death. He rocketed to fame after his song, “Look at Me,” went viral on social media and SoundCloud in 2016.
The album’s single “Sad!” peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent 15 weeks on the charts, according to Billboard.
Right after his death, “Sad!” moved from No. 52 to No. 1 on Billboard ‘s Hot 100 chart. The song was the first posthumous No. 1 for a lead soloist since The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” in 1997, according to Billboard.
The rapper was not without controversy: He was accused of homophobia after telling a story on a podcast of choking and severely beating a cellmate he suspected was gay while they both were housed in a juvenile detention center. He had also been awaiting trial for a domestic violence incident involving his pregnant girlfriend.
2019: Nipsey Hussle
The rapper’s last message on Twitter read: “Having strong enemies is a blessing.” It was later found that a conversation about snitching preceded his fatal shooting, according to grand jury testimony.
Authorities said Eric Holder fired the shots that killed Nipsey and wounded two other people. Holder, 32, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the rapper’s death. According to numerous hip-hop publications, his September sentencing date was postponed to this month.
Nipsey had been well-known on the underground circuit, and he was gaining a mainstream following just before his death.
A year earlier, he launched the first Marathon Clothing smart store in Los Angeles. Nipsey also owned The Marathon Agency marketing company, investment firm SC Commercial Ventures and the record labels Proud 2 Pay and All Money In No Money Out Records, according to Press Atlantic Records.
The 33-year-old was nominated for best rap album during the 2019 Grammys for the only studio album he ever released, “Victory Lap.” He lost to Cardi B.
Beyond his music and businesses, Nipsey was a member of the Rollin 60s Neighborhood Crips but spoke out against rappers who would boast of purported gang affiliations to stunt or look cool – not because he wished them any violence, but to remind them that for too many young people, joining a gang was about survival.
2020: Pop Smoke
New York rapper Pop Smoke was fatally shot during a home invasion at a Hollywood Hills, California, residence February 19, 2020.
Several people were detained and released following the rapper’s death. Witnesses told investigators that between two and six people broke into the home, one of them wearing a mask, Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Steve Lurie said.
Five people were arrested in connection with the slaying, two of whom were identified as juveniles.
The 20-year-old was enjoying the success of his sophomore mixtape, “Meet the Woo 2,” the week before his killing. The project debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 album charts.
Pop’s “Meet the Woo” tour was scheduled to kick off with a sold-out show in Washington, DC, on March 2, 2020.
His posthumous album, “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon,” was released in July 2020.
In a 2019 New York Times profile, the artist talked about his life before he found fame, describing his teen years as “high-risk, high-reward.”
2020: King Von
Chicago rapper King Von was one of two people fatally shot November 6, 2020, during an early morning exchange of gunfire outside an Atlanta hookah lounge, authorities said.
Two groups of men had been arguing in a parking lot around 3:30 a.m. and shots were fired, authorities said.
Four other people were wounded by gunfire, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which investigated the shooting because police officers also fired their weapons.
Timothy Leeks, 22, was arrested in connection with the rapper’s death. The Atlanta Police Homicide Unit had arrest warrants against Leeks for felony murder. Two other men were also taken into custody in connection to the shooting, according to CNN affiliate WXIA-TV.
A week before his death, Von had released his debut studio album, “Welcome to O’Block.” His posthumous sophomore album, “What It Means to Be King,” was released March 4, 2022, and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart, according to Billboard.
2021: Young Dolph
Memphis-based rapper Young Dolph was fatally shot while buying cookies November 17, 2021.
The 36-year-old rapper was at Makeda’s Homemade Butter Cookies in Memphis when someone drove up and shot him, police said at the time.
Three men were arrested in connection with Dolph’s death. Authorities identified them as Justin Johnson, 23, Shondale Barnett, 27, and Cornelius Smith, 32.
Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis said additional arrests were possible as the investigation into Young Dolph’s death continues. Citizens’ tips were key in capturing the suspects, she said.
Dolph, a Chicago native who grew up in Memphis, released his debut album, “King of Memphis,” in 2016.
He went on to perform several hits, including “Blue Diamonds” and “RNB” featuring Megan Thee Stallion. His fifth studio album, 2020’s “Rich Slave,” rose to No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart.
In 2017, he was nearly killed in a shooting incident in Hollywood. He spent weeks hospitalized after sustaining three gunshot wounds.
Dolph told The Guardian in a 2018 interview that he wasn’t “a person that lives in fear.” He is survived by two children.
2022: PnB Rock
The death of rapper PnB Rock in Los Angeles stunned the hip-hop community but brought up familiar conversations that have been taking place for years.
The rapper was shot September 12 while eating with his girlfriend at Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles in what appears to be a robbery, according to Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore. Notably, Moore said a picture of the pair’s meal had been posted on Instagram, with the location tagged.
In September, police announced they had charged three people in connection with the killing, including a father and his minor son, who were charged with murder, conspiracy to commit robbery and second-degree robbery, according to the local prosecutor. A woman was charged with being an accessory after the fact.
The minor appeared in juvenile court Thursday and is set to return for a preliminary hearing on October 19. The woman is expected to be arraigned Thursday afternoon.
“The ppl around these rappers gain so much. It’s time to start really reminding them over & over!!! At least TRY to put your foot down if you CARE! Tell them!!! You’re not loved like you think you are!!! You’re prey!!!! In a world full of predators!!!! What’s not clicking???!!!” rapper Nicki Minaj tweeted after PnB Rock’s death.
Her tweets and the organic conversations among other artists and fans on social media speak to common issues in hip-hop: masculinity, security and handling rising fame.
“The amount of non reported robbery attempts dealing with rappers are ridiculous.. hella rappers don’t even speak on it cuz some feel it’s embarrassing to admit or speak on. Rappers literally being targeted out there and ppl trying em in broad daylight,” podcast host and entertainer DJ Akademiks tweeted.
PnB Rock previously spoke with Ak about an attempted robbery when he was out with his girlfriend and daughter. It appears the rapper, who hails from Philadelphia, did not have security when he was at Roscoe’s in September.
CNN’s Lisa Respers France, Amy Simonson, Leah Asmelash, Rebekah Riess, Steve Almasy, Jamiel Lynch, Christina Maxouris, Sara Sidner, Chloe Melas and writer Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.