After its seeds were planted in the ’70s to its explosion into the mainstream in the ’80s, rap became one of the defining musical genres of the 20th century and will continue to be an unstoppable force with its massive influence on culture, fashion, and every other musical genre. Rap is and always will be woven into the fabric of America — just ask Chance The Rapper. “Rap music is a combination of many different arts to make something new,” the artist told Vanity Fair in 2017. “There’s always been a stigma that its existence would be short and only appeal to a certain group — but it’s the biggest music in the world.”
Unfortunately, from Tupac Shakur to Nipsey Hussle, some of rap’s biggest stars have been taken from us too soon over the years. And 2020 is turning out to be no different. From a New Orleans icon who defined a city’s sound to a Minnesota native whose star didn’t get the chance to shine its brightest, the rap world has sadly lost many voices this year. Although their lives were cut short, these rap artists have left behind legacies and instantly streamable music that will never be forgotten by their legions of fans.
Let’s take a look and memorialize the rappers who tragically passed away in 2020.
On Jan. 1, 2020, rapper Lexii Alijai was found dead in a downtown Minneapolis hotel room, the Star Tribune reports. She was 21. Less than a month later, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that her cause of death was due to an accidental overdose of drugs and alcohol. According to Fox News, the press release stated, “This individual died due to mixed fentanyl and ethanol toxicity.”
Per the Star Tribune, the rap artist, whose real name was Alexis Alijai Lynch, was an ascendant star with over 100,000 SoundCloud streams and was also featured on the song “Jealous” from Kehlani’s 2015 Grammy-nominated album, You Should Be Here. Mourning the loss on Twitter, Kehlani called the news the “weakest saddest way to start a new year.” She added, “I’m off this happy new year please please please please be safe out here love on your people please.”
Jessica Owen, Lexii Alijai’s mother, told the Star Tribune that the young rapper was scheduled to work in the studio on the day of her death and had planned some upcoming releases, including a collaboration with Wale and a new album. The latter will likely be released “tentatively on her birthday” in Feb. 2020.
5th Ward Weebie
5th Ward Weebie, a pioneer of New Orleans bounce music, died in the hospital due to complications related to surgery for a ruptured artery on Jan. 9, 2020, The Times-Picayune reports. He was 42. In addition to an appearance on Drake’s 2018 hit “Nice for What,” Weebie (real name Jerome Cosey) was a local legend with songs like 2005’s “F**k Katrina” and 2014’s “Let Me Find Out.”
A member of the city’s hip-hop sub-genre bounce music from the late ’90s on, the rapper-dancer’s death, which was mourned by countless fellow rappers like Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne, even rattled City Hall. Saying that his passing “broke [his] heart,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell wrote in an emotional Instagram post: “He was an iconic personality, a New Orleans legend and a beloved friend. He was the bounce king who showed us how to move, how to love and how to bring passion and humanity to everything we do. New Orleans has lost a cornerstone of our culture. Our city will not be the same without his voice and his spirit.”
Meanwhile, Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond said Weebie “embodied the soul of New Orleans” in an official statement. “A legend gone far too soon, I’m grateful his legacy will be ingrained in New Orleans culture for years to come,” he continued. “I offer my support and condolences to Jerome’s family during this difficult time.”
Rapper Tre Koast (real name Luc Treadwell) was killed in a shooting while parked on his family’s street in North Phoenix, Ariz. on Jan. 17, 2020, Fox 10 reports. He was 21. The up-and-coming rap artist’s body was found inside his Dodge Charger, which had been “riddled with bullets.” Per police, prior to “someone [firing] between 20 and 30 rounds” inside the vehicle, “an SUV was seen chasing” the rapper’s car. A day after his death, Arizona’s ABC 15 reported that no suspects had yet been identified.
The young rapper had released three lead singles in 2019 (per Apple Music): “This Year,” “Safe Around,” and “Got It in Send It Out.” Most recently, he was featured on SoundCloud rapper Ki’s “Gifted” that September. When asked for a comment on Tre Koast’s untimely passing, the rapper’s father told Fox 10, “I’m not even ready for a memorial. I’m not ready to make any kind of statement. I’m sorry.” Meanwhile, Kennedy Bennett, Tre Koast’s girlfriend of nearly two years, told ABC 15, “Lucious was the love of my life, he was my best friend, my go-to.” She added, “Music was his motivation, being in the studio was like his safe haven almost.”
Rapper Dee Dave was fatally shot outside an apartment building in Baltimore, Md. on Jan. 24, 2020, The Baltimore Sun reports. He was 29. Dee Dave, who’s real name was David Leroy King Jr., is survived by his girlfriend and 10-year-old son.
During an interview with Stop the Breaks in 2014, the late rap artist, whose most recent music release was “No More Humble” in December 2019, listed the likes of J. Cole, Drake, Dom Kennedy, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Hov, Jadakiss, Curren$y, and Joey Bada$$ as rap artists who “make great music” and help him “with ideas.” However, he revealed he how felt “like hip-hop ain’t breathing the right way” and jokingly added, “It’s on life support … so much garbage music being polluted.”
Having also worked as a Baltimore Gas & Electric contractor (per CBS Baltimore), the rapper had been planning to head out to Atlanta mere hours after his untimely death to play a show that may have been his “big break,” his family explained to The Baltimore Sun. “He had a rap career, on top of working a full-time job, on top of being a father,” Dee Dave’s cousin, Antwan Askia, emphasized to CBS Baltimore, adding, “I don’t know what’s happening right now. I just got a call at six in the morning saying my cousin was gone.”
Washington, D.C. rapper Big Booda was shot and killed while sitting in a vehicle on Feb. 1, 2020, Fox 5 reports. According to police, the rapper later died at a nearby hospital. Big Booda, whose death comes just months after the loss of his mother, was 24 and is survived by his one-year-old son.
With an impressive “local following,” Big Booda’s (real name Donelle Hodges) untimely passing came “shortly after” his fourth mixtape, Slide 2, dropped in late 2019. According to one of his associates, Big Booda “truly wanted to get his life right and leave the area.”
Mourning his friend and business partner’s death on Instagram, Rundwn Shard criticized the senseless violence in the D.C. area. “Unfortunately this morning I got the call I lost my good man [and] business partner BOODA! At one point in time I used to be proud to say I was from [Southeast, D.C.]! I no longer am,” he wrote in part. “I have been blessed to survive and punished at the [same] time to watch one single area and also a city rob me of 90 [percent] of the people I grew up with and loved.”
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