The past year has been a difficult one for a number of reasons. The hip-hop community has also marked its share of losses. Many were some of rap’s biggest stars but died before they could reach their full potential. Before the coronavirus outbreak started in March, the music industry was rocked by the tragic passing of Juice WRLD. This comes after the losses of Nipsey Hussle and Mac Miller, which many say left a void in the culture. In their memory, BET is paying tribute to the legacies they left behind.
In a gut-wrenching moment for hip-hop, Pop Smoke was shot and killed in an L.A. home invasion on February 19, 2019. A fast-rising rap neophyte from the Brooklyn drill scene, Pop Smoke simultaneously introduced himself and made a mark on the industry with his hit single “Welcome to the Party.” That single would become a staple of 2019’s rap scene. In a bittersweet testament of his potential, the late rapper’s posthumously-released debut album, Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Another devastating story of a promising talent lost much too soon, fans and industry peers alike were rocked by the untimely death of Juice WRLD just days after his 21st birthday on December 8, 2019. The Chicago-born rap artist died after suffering a seizure at Chicago’s Midway Airport. His death was later ruled an accidental drug overdose. In July, his posthumous album, Legends Never Die, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard 200 chart.
Lexii Alijai was a promising talent in the making. But before she got the chance to shine, the budding artist passed away at the age of 21 on January 1, just six weeks shy of her 22nd birthday. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the rapper died from an accidental overdose. Alijai was just beginning to make a name for herself through freestyles that she uploaded to SoundCloud. She released her first project, Joseph’s Coat, in 2015 when she was just 17 years old, and her second release, Growing Pains, in 2017.
A few months later, news broke that Chynna Rogers died on April 8 from an accidental drug overdose, according to NBC News. A model and rising rap star out of Philadelphia, Rogers signed to Ford Models at the age of 14, after being discovered in between rollercoaster rides at New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure. In a 2018 Pitchfork profile, she candidly discussed her past struggles with addiction and a consequent rehab stint. Rogers had just released her first EP, in case i die first, months prior in December 2019.
The New York hip hop community was dealt another hard blow when up-and-coming rap star Nick Blixky was tragically shot and killed in Brooklyn on May 10. Blixky, 21, was involved in Brooklyn’s burgeoning drill rap scene. He was on the rise after the success of his single, “Drive The Boat,” and was gearing up to release a new mixtape, Different Timin, before his untimely death.
New York lost a fixture of the hip hop community after Fred The Godson passed away due to complications from COVID-19 on April 23 after being hospitalized for weeks. He was 35. As one of rap’s more respected lyricists, the Bronx native broke out with Armageddon in 2010. He continued to steadily release music over the years, with the most recent being his Payback mixtape on March 20.
Just days later, hip hop lost another OG with the passing of Steve ‘Stezo’ Williams on April 29 of a possible heart attack, according to Heavy.com. He was 51 years old. Hailing from New Haven, Conn., Williams found success in the ‘80s. He launched himself into the mainstream’s consciousness with his introductory hit, “It's My Turn,” The beat would go on to be sampled by artists like Digable Planets, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and Ol' Dirty Bastard.
A rising rap star from New York, KJ Balla, was killed during a drive-by shooting in Brooklyn on May 22. The rapper was 23 and just beginning to gain momentum. He was best known for his hit songs, “Switch the Game,” Cookin Up,” and “Strangers.” KJ Balla had just released his latest single, “Back to Back” the month prior to his death. His songs had been streamed more than 80,000 times on Spotify.
Many were left crushed when Huey succumbed to his injuries after he was fatally wounded in a shooting. The 32-year-old was shot and killed in Kinloch, Missouri on June 26. Fondly remembered by many for his smash hit, “Pop, Lock, And Drop It,” the news hit longtime fans of the St. Louis native hard.
Less than a month after Huey’s tragic death, the Atlanta hip hop community was dealt a hard blow when news broke that Lil Marlo was fatally shot on July 12. Investigators believe the 30-year-old was killed in what they suspect was a targeted shooting. Earlier this year, the Quality Control signee released his mixtape, 1st & 3rd. Lil Yachty later wrote that the two had been working on music together the morning he died.
On August 4, tragedy struck in Windy City after FBG Duck was shot dead at 26 in a drive-by shooting in downtown Chicago. FBG Duck was best known for his 2018 hit song “Slide,” which currently had over 53M views on YouTube at the time of his death.
(Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage)
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