When someone in the public eye dies, it causes a lot of public and media attention. This is especially the case when they have died young as people are always shocked when someone has died before their time. While there are celebrities from all different fields of the entertainment industry who have died at a young age, the hip-hop industry has some huge stars who have died suddenly and in shocking circumstances. There are some who have died following an illness and others who have been killed in a tragic incident or criminal act. Here are 20 rappers who died at a young age.
20. Joe C.
Rapper and musician Joseph Calleja was born in Michigan on November 9, 1974. He began his professional career in 1994 and took on the stage name Joe C. He rose to prominence in the music industry ad the comic relief and hype man of Kid Rock. When they first met, Kid Rock had thought that Joe C. was a child. He featured on the album ‘Cool Daddy Cool’ in 1995. In addition to his career in music, Joe C also made several small television appearances. Joe C. had suffered from health problems all his life as he was born with a condition called celiac disease. His condition meant that he grew to only 3 ft 9 in. and suffered many health complications. On November 16, 2000, Joe C. died in his sleep at his parents’ home. It was just one week before his 26th birthday. He had been working on his solo album prior to his death but this was never released. An official cause of death was never released.
Randy Walker was better known by the stage name Stretch. He was born in New York on April 8, 1968. Stretch is a well-known hip-hop rapper and music producer who often collaborated with Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. He was also a member of the group ‘Live Squad’ along with his brother Majesty. The friendship and professional relationship between Stretch, The Notorious B.I.G., and Tupac Shakur ended when Shakur was attacked at Quad Recording Studios in 1994 and there was a well-publicized falling out. Shakur blamed Stretch for not defending him against the attackers. Of the three men, Stretch was the first to be murdered. He died on November 30, 1995, in Queens New York, when he was 27 years of age. He was murdered in a drive-by shooting exactly one year after the attack at Quad Recording Studios. This led to many rumors linking the two attacks. Although many theories have circulated since his death, the murder was never solved.
Dolla is the stage name of Roderick Anthony Burton II who was born on November 25, 1987, in Chicago Illinois. He began his career in the music industry in 2000 as a member of the hip-hop group ‘Da Razkalz Cru’. At that time, he used the name Bucklyte. Following the break-up of this group, he briefly worked as a model before embarking on a solo career as a rapper and signing to Akon’s Konvict Muzik label in 2007. In the same year, he released his debut solo commercial single ‘Who the F*** Is That?’. This was followed by two more solo singles between then and 2009. While standing at a valet stand at the Beverley Center Shopping Mall in Los Angeles, he was shot to death. He died on May 18, 2009, at the age of 21. Although Aubrey Berry was arrested for his murder, he was later acquitted of all charges.
17. Freaky Tah
Freaky Tah was an MC, a hype man, and a promoter who was best-known as a member of the ‘Lost Boyz’. Other members of this group included DJ Spigg Nice, Mr. Cheeks, and Pretty Lou. Freaky Tah was born as Raymond Rogers in Queens, New York, on May 14, 1972. He began his career in 1994 and, with the ‘Lost Boyz’, released three hip-hop albums. Sadly, his career in the music industry was short-lived. When leaving a friend’s birthday [arty on March 28, 1999, he was shot by Kelvin Jones. He was later pronounced dead in hospital and was 26 when he died. Jones pleaded guilty to the murder and the getaway driver, Raheem Fletcher, was also sentenced to spend seven years in prison.
16. Big Hawk
John Edwards Hawkins was a rapper who was born in Houston, Texas, on November 15, 1969. He was best-known by the stage name Big Hawk. However, he was also known as Hawk, H.A.W.K., and Five Star General of the Screwed Up Click. The latter is because he was one of the founding members of the rap group ‘Screwed Up Click’ along with the late DJ Screw. During his career, he released five solo albums between 2000 and 2008, two of these were posthumously released. At the age of 36, Big Hawk was shot dead on Redfern Drive, Houston, on May 1, 2006. Big Hawk was pronounced dead at the scene. There were no witnesses to the shooting and police were unable to find a suspect or a motivation for the killing. His brother, Fat Pat, was murdered eight years earlier.
15. Soulja Slim
James Adarryl Tapp Jr. was an American rapper and songwriter who was better known by his stage name Soulja Slim. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 9, 1977, and began his career as a musician in 1993. One of the tracks for which he is best-known is ‘Slow Motion’, which he both wrote and performed. This song was a number one hit in the United States. During his career, he released six albums. The most successful of these was the 1998 album, ‘Give It 2 ‘Em Raw’, which reached 14th position on the US charts and peaked at number 4 on the US R&B charts. On November 26, 2003, he was shot dead by an assailant on the front lawn of his mother and stepfather’s home. Three shots had hit him in the chest and one in the face. Garelle Smith was arrested in connection with the murder but was later released due to lack of evidence. Smith was also shot dead in 2011.
14. Big Pun
Christopher Lee Rios used the stage name Big Pun. He was born in The Bronx, New York, on November 10, 1971. He first came to prominence in the early 1990s and was well-known as a lyricist and for using multi-syllabic rhyming schemes. Big Pun is widely regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all-time. During his career, he collaborated with many other hip-hop artists in addition to releasing solo work. In 1998, he released his debut album ‘Capital Punishment’. He then became a member of the ‘Terror Squad’ between 1999 and 2000. Big Pun was severely obese and this had caused him many health problems during his adult life. He cancelled a performance on February 5, 2000, due to illness. Just two days later, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He died at the age of 28 and at this time, he weighed 698 pounds. He was married to Liza and they had three children; Amanda, Vanessa, and Christopher Jr.
Proof, whose real name was DeShaun Dupree Holton, was a rapper and actor. He was born in Detroit, Michigan, on October 2, 1973. He was a close friend of Eminem and often performed as a hype man at his concerts. In addition to his solo career, he was also a member of many groups during his career; Funky Cowboys, Goon Squad, 5 Elementz, Promatic, and D12.Furthermore, he produced many collaborations with some of the top rappers and hip-hop artists in the world. On April 11, 2006, Proof was involved in a dispute during a game of billiards at the CCC Club in Detroit. Following the dispute, Mario Etheridge shot him three times; twice in the back and once in the skull. It was reported that during the altercation, Proof shot Keith Bender, the cousin of Etheridge, in the head. While Proof died at the scene, Bender did not die until a week later.
12. J Dilla
James Dewitt Yancey is a rapper and record producer who used the names J Dilla and Jay Dee. He was born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 7, 1974. J DIlla emerged from the underground hip hop scene during the early 1990s. He was best-known as one member of the hip hop trio ‘Slum Village’. He was also considered one of the most influential music artists of that time and collaborated with many famous artists, including Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, and Common. Although he was enjoying a successful career in the music industry, he had health problems. Specifically, he suffered from a blood disease called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. It was this blood condition that caused his death in Los Angeles on February 10, 2006. He had turned 32 just days earlier.
11. Fredo Santana
Derrick Coleman was better known by his stage name Fredo Santana. This rapper was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 4, 1990. He began his career in music in 2011 and released his debut album ‘Trappin Ain’t Dead’ on October 31, 2013. Sadly, his career was short-lived. On January 19, 2018, he suffered a fatal seizure at his home in Los Angeles. Prior to his death, he had been suffering from kidney and liver problems as a result of taking a recreational drug called lean, which is also known as purple drank. He was 27 at the time of his death and leaves behind a son.
10. Heavy D
Heavy D was the stage name used by Dwight Errington Myers who was born in Jamaica on May 24, 1967. He was a rapper, a reord producer, an actor, and a singer. He was best-known as the leader of the hip hop group ‘Heavy D & the Boyz’. The other members of the group were G-Whiz, ‘Trouble’ T, and Eddie F. The group released five albums during their career in the music industry. Their time in the limelight may have lasted longer had it not been for the death of Heavy D on November 8, 2011, when he collapsed outside his home in Beverly Hills. It was initially believed that he had died from pneumonia, but the autopsy report revealed the cause of death as a pulmonary embolism.
9. Jason Mizell
Jason Mizell, also known as Jam Master Jay, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on January 21, 1965. This DJ and musician was best-known for his work as the DJ of the hip hop group Run-DMC. This group was one of the most popular, successful and influential groups of the 1980s. in fact, they are often credited with helping to break hip hop into mainstream music culture. Mizell was especially well-known for his ability to rework classic guitar riffs and transform them into a hip hop style. His untimely death came about when he was shot by an unknown assailant on October 30, 2002. The attack took place while he was recording new music at his studio, which was located in the Jamaica area of New York City. Before his death, he fathered three sons and a daughter.
8. Nate Dogg
Nate Dogg is the stage name of Nathaniel Dwayne Hale. This rapper, singer, songwriter, and actor was born on August 19, 1969, in Mississippi. He was the cousin of Snoop Dogg and the pair performed together along with lifetime friend Warren G as the rap trio ‘213’. It was with this group that he began his career in the music industry in 1991. He went on to pursue a solo career, during which he released three albums. The first, ‘G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1 & 2’ was released in 1998. This was followed by ‘Music & Me’ in 2001. His final album was ‘Nate Dogg and he released this in 2003 as a bootlegged album. The latter was then released posthumously as a CD in 2014. Nate Dogg died on March 15, 2011, at the age of 41. In the years prior to his death, he had suffered several strokes. It was a result of these strokes that he experienced health complications that led to his death. Nate Dogg’s son, Nathaniel Dwayne Hale Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps and began to record music to keep the legacy of his father alive.
7. Adam Yauch
Adam Yauch was a rapper, musician, singer, songwriter, director, and film distributor. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 5, 1964. Yauch is best-known as a member of the hip hop group ‘Beastie Boys’. Although he predominantly used his own name as a performer, he was also known by MCA and Nathaniel Hornblower. With the Beastie Boys, Yauch sold over 40 million records worldwide. In addition to his career with this group, he also constructed a New York recording studio called ‘Oscilloscope Laboratories’ in 2002’ and then began a film production company called ‘Oscilloscope Pictures’. In 2009, Yauch was diagnosed with a cancerous parotid gland and lymph node. Although he received treatment for this condition, he passed away on May 4, 2012, at the age of 47. He instructed in his will that none of his music could be used for advertising. However, some legal experts have said that this may not be legal.
Eric Lynn Wright was born in Compton, California, on September 7, 1963. This rapper used the stage name Eazy-E when performing as a solo artist and also with the hip hop group N.W.A. He had a turbulent childhood and dropped out of school to sell drugs on the streets of Compton. He then turned his life around by founding Ruthless Records and becoming a rapper. He formed the group N.W.A with Ice Cube, Arabian Prince, and Dr. Dre. They were then joined by MC Ren and DJ Yella before releasing their debut album. Their most controversial album was ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and they released this in 1988. In February of 1995, Eazy-E was admitted into hospital as he was experiencing breathing problems. At first, doctors thought this was asthma, but they later diagnosed AIDS. Just one month after his diagnosis, on March 16, 1995, Eazy-E died from complications associated with AIDS.
5. Lisa ‘Left-Eye’ Lopes
Lisa ‘Left-Eye’ Lopes was one of the most famous female rappers of all-time. She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 27, 1971. This artist is best-known as one third of the hip hop girl group ‘TLC’. The other two members of the group were Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas and Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins. Lopes predominantly rapped and sang backing vocals for TLC, but also worked on many creative aspects of the group, such as their wardrobe and their music videos. She is also credited with co-writing more of their tracks than any other member of the group. On April 25, 2002, Lopes was driving a rented vehicle and three of her friends were passengers. She swerved to avoid a truck and then again to avoid an oncoming car. The car rolled repeatedly and hit two trees. Lopes and her three passengers were all thrown form the windows of the car. Lopes was the only one fatally injured in the accident and she died from head and neck injuries sustained in the crash.
4. Ol’ Dirty Bastard
Russell Tyrone Jones performed using the stage name Ol’ Dirty Bastard. This artist was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 15, 1968. He was a rapper and producer who was one of the founding members of the rap group ‘Wu-Tang Clan’. The group first rose to prominence when they released their debut album ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chamber)’ in 1993. On November 13, 2004, Ol’ Dirty Bastard died of a drugs overdose. It was just two days before his 36th birthday. The autopsy discovered a lethal mixture of the prescription drug tramadol and cocaine in his toxicology report. Thousands attended his funeral which was held at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, Ne York City.
Albert Johnson was born in Long Island, New York, on November 2, 1974. He is better known by his stage name Prodigy as a solo artist and he is also one half of the hip hop duo Mobb Deep along with Havoc. He released the debut album of Mobb Deep ‘The Infamous’ in 1995. In 2000, he released his debut solo album ‘H.N.I.C’. He did not release the follow-up to this album, ‘H.N.I.C. Part 2’, until 2008. Throughout his career, he also collaborated with many other artists. Despite his success in the music industry, he also faced many challenges as his career was marred with legal issues and feuds. He also suffered from sickle-cell anemia and this was a topic he had used to inspire his music. He sadly died on June 20, 2017. He had suffered complications related to his sickle-cell anemia just days before his death and the coroner reported that he had died from accidental choking.
2. The Notorious B.I.G
The Notorious B.I.G. was also known as Biggie Smalls, Biggie, Big Poppa, and Frank White. However, his real name was Christopher George Latore Wallace and he was born on May 21, 1972, in Brooklyn, New York. He is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest rappers of all-time. He began his career in 1992, although he did not release his debut album, ‘Ready to Die’, until 1994. It was at this point he became a central figure on the hip hop scene in the East Coast. He began to record his second album in 1997. Sadly, his career in the music industry was cut tragically short when he was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997. Just sixteen days later, his second album ‘Life After Death’ was released posthumously.
1. Tupac Shakur
Tupac Shakur was born in East Harlem, New York, on June 16, 1971. He often went by the stage names 2Pac or Makaveli. This rapper, poet and actor began his career in 1987. He had a successful career as a solo artist and is often referred to as the greatest rapper of all-time. Shakur also had a relatively successful career in acting and had roles in six movies. Despite his success, his career was marred by his involvements in hip hop rivalry and gang conflicts. His career was cut short when he was shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996. He was shot four times at taken to hospital to receive treatment for his injuries. Sadly, he died six days later on September 13, 1996.