Hip hop music or rap music first started to emerge in the 1970’s. Hip hop’s music and culture can trace its roots back to block parties held in the Bronx. It grew out of block parties to become a worldwide genre and phenomenon. There are many sub-genres of hip hop music—Gangsta Rap, East Coast Hip Hop, G-Funk, Southern Rap, Alternative Rap, and many more. The 1979 song “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang is considered the first rap song to gain mainstream success. Hip hop music has tackled several controversial topics like police brutality, politics, racism, and the harsh realities of growing up in the inner cities. There have been many legendary and iconic rappers, including Grandmaster Flash, Marley Marl, LL Cool J, Eric B. & Rakim, Outkast, Dr. Dre, Missy Elliot, Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, and Nas.
Hip hop music has spread all over the world and has created great music and iconic artists. However, it has also suffered many heartbreaking and tragic losses. There have been many tragic deaths, such as Big Pun, Eazy-E and R&B singer Aaliyah. However, there have been many hip hop artists that were murdered in cold blood. In many cases, the deaths have never been solved. Several of the darkest moments in hip hop saw yet another great artist killed. Some of them were legends and icons who were at the peak of their career or are still underground sensations. Here is a look at 15 Most Tragic Hip Hop Murders.
15. Proof (October 2, 1973 – April 11, 2006)
Proof (DeShaun Holton) was a member of the rap group D12. He was a childhood friend of Eminem. As a solo artist, he released the albums I Miss The Hip Hop Shop and Searching For Jerry Garcia. Both albums were released on his Iron Fist label. Additionally, he appeared in the films 8 Mile and The Longest Yard.
On April 11, 2006, Proof was shot and killed by Mario Etheridge at the CCC Club in Detroit. However, there are two different versions of the events that occurred that night. Proof had an argument with Keith Bender over a pool game. According to the first version, an altercation broke out and Proof shot Keith Bender in the head. Bouncer Etheridge then pulled out his gun and shot Proof twice in the back or chest and once in the skull. According to the second version, a fight broke out between Proof and Bender and in the chaos, both were shot and killed by Etheridge. Mario Etheridge was deemed to be acting in self-defense of another but was found guilty of carrying an illegal firearm.
14. Fat Pat (December 4, 1970 – February 3, 1998) and Big Hawk (November 15, 1969 – May 1, 2006)
Fat Pat (Patrick Hawkins), Big Hawk (John Hawkins), Kay-K, and DJ Screw were the founding members of D.E.A. (Dead End Alliance). All four were also original members of the Screwed Up Click. Fat Pat had his only two albums, Ghetto Dreams and Throw In Da Game, released just after his death. His brother, Big Hawk, continued with his career after Pat’s death. Big Hawk was a founding member of the Screwed Up Click and introduced his brother to DJ Screw. Big Hawk released several albums after Pat’s death, such as Under Hawk’s Wings, HAWK, and Wreckin’ 2004. After DJ Screw’s overdose, Hawk essentially kept the Screwed Up Click alive.
On February 3, 1998, Fat Pat went to a promoter’s home to collect a fee. However, the promoter wasn’t home and as Pat left, he was shot and killed. 8 years later, on May 1, 2006, Big Hawk met a friend to play dominoes. He arrived before the friend and was shot by an unknown assailant. Both murders remain unsolved to this day.
13. Bugz (January 5, 1978 – May 21, 1999)
Bugz (Karnali Pitts) was a member of the rap group D12 along with Eminem, Proof, Kuniva, Swifty McVay, Fuzz Scoota, Mr. Porter, and Bizarre. Eventually, Eminem left the group to focus on his solo career but returned later. In 1996, Bugz and D12 released the album The Underground EP. At the time of his death, Bugz was in the middle of working on his first solo album, Mr. Obnoxious, which was released posthumously.
On May 21, 1999, Bugz attended a picnic prior to a show in Detroit. He ended up in a heated argument with a man and woman over a water pistol. The fight escalated but Bugz attempted to remove himself from the argument. The man went to his SUV and returned with a firearm. He shot Bugz twice in the back and as he fled in his SUV, ran Bugz over. His death was a devastating blow to D12. The Marshall Matters LP and D12’s Devil’s Night are both dedicated in his memory.
12. Mac Dre (July 5, 1970 – November 1, 2004)
Mac Dre (Andre Hicks) was a California-based rapper who founded Thizz Entertainment. Between 1988 and 1992, he recorded his first set of albums—Young Black Brotha, California Livin, and Back N Da Hood. In 1992, he was charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and was sentenced to 5 years in prison. After his release, he formed Thizz Entertainment as a way to help people escape the street life.
On November 1, 2004, Mac Dre was shot and killed early in the morning while driving down a Kansas City Highway. A black Infiniti began shooting at the van they were in, which caused the driver to crash the van. The driver survived but Mac Dre died at the scene due to a gunshot to the back of the neck. The murder was possibly linked to an altercation the night before. Mac Dre and members of Thizz entertainment were scheduled to preform but they left the venue after a pay dispute with the promoter. The only suspect, Anthony Watkins, was later found dead. The murder remains unsolved.
11. Doe B (June 13, 1991 – December 28, 2013)
Doe B (Glenn Thomas) is best known as a member of rapper T.I.’s record label, Hustle Gang. Doe B released several highly praised mixtapes, such as Definition of a Trapper, Trap Life, and Baby Jesus. He appeared on the Grand Hustle Compilation album G.D.O.D (Get Dough or Die). He was known for his distinctive eye patch that was a result of a 2009 shooting.
On December 28, 2013, Doe B was shot multiple times at the Centennial Bar and Grill in his native town Montgomery, Alabama. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. A bystander was also killed in the altercation. Six other patrons and rapper Young Mayo, were also injured. One of the injured patrons died a few weeks later due to injuries. On December 30, Jason McWilliams turned himself in to the police. The motive seemed to be the result of an ongoing feud between Doe B and McWilliams. T.I. spoke at the funeral about Doe B’s once promising and bright future. Doe B was 22 at the time of his death.
10. Magnolia Shorty (September 30, 1982 – December 20, 2010)
Magnolia Shorty (Renetta Lowe-Bridgewater) was a New Orleans-based rapper. She was a part of the New Orleans bounce music scene and was even dubbed “The Queen of Bounce.” She was discovered by Birdman and was the first woman signed to Lil’ Wayne’s Cash Money label. Soulja Slim gave her the name “Magnolia Shorty” because both had grown up in the dangerous Magnolia Projects. She began working with Cash Money in the 90’s and worked with artists Hot Boys and Juvenile.
On December 20, 2010, Magnolia Shorty was headed to Miami to perform at a festival. As she pulled through the gate, a car blocked her in. Unknown assailants then opened fire on the vehicle killing her. She was shot a total of 26 times and died at the scene. Shorty was likely not the target of the killers but her friend, Jerome Hampton, who was in the passenger seat. He also died at the scene. In 2014, four suspected gang members were charged in the death of Magnolia Shorty. She was 28 at the time of her death.
9. M-Bone (September 17, 1988 – May 15, 2011)
M-Bone (Montae Talbert) was a member of the Cali Swag District. The group released several mixtapes and in July 2011, released the album The Kickback. They were best known for the single “Teach Me How to Dougie.” In the music video, M-Bone performed the Dougie and other band members considered him the best at doing the Dougie and teaching it. A spokesperson for the group said, “He was the best at doing the dance, and on tour, he was always the one in the forefront.” The dance became so popular that former first lady Michelle Obama was once spotted doing the dance steps.
On May 15, 2011, M-Bone was on his way to the recording studio and had stopped at a liquor store. An unknown assailant gunned him down while sitting in his car. He was shot twice in the head and died at the scene. He was with his girlfriend at the time of the shooting. She reported that the killer was likely jealous of his recent success in the hip hop community.
8. Soulja Slim (September 9, 1977 – November 26, 2003)
Soulja Slim (James Tapp Jr.) started his career in the mid 90’s and had his first big break when he singed with No Limit Records. He released several popular albums, including Give It 2 ‘Em Raw, The Streets Made Me, and Years Later. He is best known for writing and appearing on the massive number one hit “Slow Motion” by Juvenile. The song was released after his death and appeared on Juvenile’s album Juve The Great.
On November 26, 2003, Slim was shot four times in front of his mother and stepfather’s home. An unknown assailant shot him three times in the chest and once in the face. On December 31st that year, police arrested Garelle Smith for the murder. The bullets of his gun matched the bullets used in Slim’s murder. However, nobody would come forward to testify against him. In 2011, Garelle Smith was found dead after being shot in the face and chest.
7. Stretch (April 8, 1968 – November 30, 1995)
Stretch (Randy Walker) was a member of Live Squad with his brother, Majesty. Stretch was good friends with both Biggie and 2pac prior to their feud. Live Squad, Biggie, and 2pac recorded the track “Runnin from the Police” together. Stretch was with 2pac when he was robbed, beaten, and shot at the Quad Recording Studios on November 30, 1994. While serving a prison sentence for s*xual assault, 2pac began to accuse Biggie of being behind the shooting and suspected that Stretch was somehow involved. 2pac found it suspicious that Biggie happen to be at the studio and that Stretch was unarmed during the robbery. Additionally, 2pac became very angry when he realized that Stretch continued to work with Biggie after the shooting. Often, 2pac would hurl insults at both Biggie and Stretch.
On November 30, 1995, Stretch worked with Nas in the studio. After the session, he dropped off Nas and his brother before heading to a Biggie event. However, a black car pulled up next to his van and opened fire killing Stretch. The killing took place exactly one year after the shooting at Quad Studio. 2pac denied having an involvement in Stretch’s death.
6. Yaki Kadafi (October 9, 1977 – November 10, 1996)
Yaki Kadafi (Yafeu Fula) was a founding member of the rap group The Outlawz with childhood friend 2pac. Kadafi’s parents were both members of the Black Panther Party along with 2pac’s mother. When 2pac was serving time in prison, Kadalfi would visit him on a regular basis. In 1999, The Outlawz released the album Still I Rise. He also appeared on the 2pac albums Me Against the World and All Eyez on Me. On September 7, 1996, Kadafi was in the car behind 2pac the night he was gunned down in Las Vegas. Kadafi was an eyewitness and told the authorities that he could identify one of the shooters. However, the police never interviewed him.
Two months after 2pac’s death on November 10, 1996, Yaki Kadafi was murdered in a New Jersey apartment. He had apparently gone to visit his girlfriend. He was found slumped over in a stairwell and had been shot in the head. He was accidentally shot by Mutah “Napolean” Beale’s cousin who later turned himself in and served 10 years in prison.
5. Big L (May 30, 1974 – February 15, 1999)
Big L (Lamont Coleman) was a key player in the underground hip hop scene during the 90’s. He founded the rap group Children of the Corn along with Cam’ron, Bloodshed, and Mase. In 1995, he released his debut album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous. He is best known for the popular single “Ebonics” which was released in 1998. He caught the attention of Roc-A-Fella records CEO Damon Dash. Dash wanted only Big L but he insisted that his whole crew get signed. Big L’s crew included future rap legend Jay-Z.
On February 15, 1999, Big L was shot in the face and chest nine times in a drive-by shooting. He died at the young age of 24. Eventually, his childhood friend, Gerard Woodley, was arrested for the murder but was later controversially released. The motive behind the shooting was believed to be retaliation for something one of his brothers had done. The case remains unsolved. After his death, his second studio album, The Big Picture, was released to critical acclaim.
4. Scott La Rock (March 2, 1962 – August 27, 1987)
Scott La Rock (Scott Monroe Sterling) began as a DJ while attending college. In 1984, he began working as a social worker at Franklin Men’s Shelter. At night, he would DJ at the Broadway Repertoire Theatre, which was a popular destination at that time. While working as a social worker, he met future rap icon KRS-One who was living at the shelter. They soon partnered up with rapper/DJ D-Nice to form the legendary Boogie Down Productions. On March 3, 1987, Boogie Down Productions released Criminal Minded, which would become one of the most influential and important hip hop albums.
On August 27, 1987, Scott La Rock’s life came to a violent end. D-Nice had an altercation with a group of guys. Apparently, D-Nice was dating the ex-girlfriend of one of the guys, which resulted to a heated argument. Scott La Rock had attempted to diffuse the situation but was unsuccessful. Later, while sitting in his jeep with D-Nice, two assailants approached and opened fire. La Rock was shot in the head and died later at Lincoln Hospital at the age of 25.
3. Jam Master Jay (January 21, 1965 – October 30, 2002)
Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) was a member of the iconic and legendary rap group Run-DMC. The group is considered as a pioneer in the hip hop community and is credited with breaking rap into the mainstream. It has collaborated with rock band Aerosmith to release the critically and commercially acclaimed song “Walk This Way.” Run-DMC also released albums Run-D.M.C., King of Rock, and Raising Hell. Jam Master Jay was the group’s DJ but he also played live drums, keyboards, and bass.
On October 30, 2002, Jam Master Jay was recording at a studio in Jamaica, Queens. At 7:30 in the evening, an assailant entered the studio and shot and killed Jay. In 2003, convicted drug dealer Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, was investigated as being behind the murder. The motive behind the killing is linked to an industry black list of rapper 50 Cent. 50 had recorded a song where he discussed McGriff’s drug dealing. The feeling was that Jay had defied the black list, which resulted in his murder. A second accomplice, Ronald Washington, was also a suspect. However, neither was ever charged. The case remains unsolved.
2. Notorious B.I.G. (May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997)
The legendary Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie (Christopher Wallace) is considered one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time. Biggie is credited with revitalizing the East Coast Hip Hop scene. Biggie released numerous critically and commercially acclaimed albums, such as Ready to Die, Life After Death, and Born Again. At one point, he was involved in a vicious feud with his rival, 2pac. Biggie was the biggest artist on Bad Boy Records and played a key part in the West Coast-East Coast rap wars.
On March 9, 1997, Notorious B.I.G. met a similar fate that his rival, 2pac, had met only 6 months earlier. On March 8th, he attended a party hosted by Vibe magazine in Los Angeles. The party was shut down so Biggie, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, and his large entourage left the event. They left in two GMC Suburbans with Biggie riding in the first car and Combs in the second. At 12:45 am, the SUV Biggie was riding in stopped at a red light. A Chevrolet Impala pulled up next to them and opened fire on the passenger side. Biggie was shot four times and was pronounced dead after an hour. He was 24 at the time of his death. The killers have never been found.
1. 2pac (June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996)
The iconic 2pac (Tupac Shakur) is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time. 2pac released several popular albums, including Me Against the World, All Eyez on Me, and The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. At the time of his death, he was embroiled in a bitter feud with rap rival Notorious B.I.G, which was a key element in the West Coast-East Coast hip-hop war.
On September 7, 1996, 2pac attended the Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas. When leaving the fight, 2pac, Suge Knight, and his large entourage attacked a rival gang member, Orlando Anderson. 2pac and his entourage then headed to Club 662 to continue their evening. At 11:15 pm, the vehicle 2pac was riding in stopped at a red light. Moments later, a white Cadillac pulled up next to the car and opened fire on the passenger side. 2pac was shot once in the arm and thigh and twice in the chest. He was rushed to the hospital but died 6 days later at the age of 25. The killers have never been found. On April 7, 2017, Tupac Shakur was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.