Yet anoth­er young prom­ising talent’s life has been cut short due to an end­less cycle of viol­ence in what has become one of the most tra­gic years in hip hop his­tory.

DMX, Shock G, Michael K. Wil­li­ams, Biz Markie, and now Young Dolph.

The 36 year old Mem­ph­is based rap­per and com­munity lead­er was fatally shot while doing some­thing simple and lov­ing, pick­ing up cook­ies for his moth­er at a loc­al bakery called Make­da’s Homemade But­ter Cook­ies.

Two uniden­ti­fied gun­man driv­ing a White Mer­cedes pulled up and gunned him down just a few hours after Dolph was cap­tured on a smart­phone inter­act­ing with fans while at a gas sta­tion not too far from the bakery.

Soon after the shoot­ing rumors began to cir­cu­late that there were oth­er shoot­ings linked to oth­er Mem­ph­is rap­pers but a police spokes­per­son denied any of the claims.

How­ever, there was a con­firmed shoot­ing near Mel­rose High School in Mem­ph­is where no injur­ies and an unclear sense of wheth­er this was some­how linked to the death of Young Dolph.

As a res­ult of reports of oth­er shoot­ings, Mem­ph­is City Coun­cil­man J.B. Smi­ley and Ten­ness­ee State Rep. Lon­don Lamar called on the city to insti­tute a curfew.

The out­pour­ing of grief and shock was strong in Mem­ph­is and it soon per­meated through­out the hip hop world in remem­brance of a young man who meant so much to his fans and com­munity that went way bey­ond the music.

Born in Chica­go, Young Dolph, who real name is Adolph Thornton Jr, was as grass­roots as the best of them.

He came to Mem­ph­is soon after he was born and began releas­ing a series of mix­tapes in 2008, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of oth­er prom­in­ent rap­pers such as T.I. and Lil Wayne who rose to star­dom by put­ting togeth­er a com­plic­a­tion of music that was pure organ­ic and then spread­ing the word to fam­ily, friends, and their loc­al com­munity.

He quickly estab­lished a fol­low­ing and pretty soon Dolph’s career took off.

In 2016, he made his way into the main­stream with his single “Play With Yo B****” achiev­ing gold status and his 2020 album Rich Slave peaked at #3 on the Bill­board charts and he became Memphis’s favor­ite son.

He nev­er for­got where he came from and he gave his time and money back to his people in South Mem­ph­is.
He was to Mem­ph­is what Nip­sey Hussle was to South LA or what Big­gie was to Brook­lyn.

He would give away tur­keys to fam­il­ies every Thanks­giv­ing and he was a fre­quent vis­it­or to the Shelby County School Dis­trict, speak­ing to stu­dents and giv­ing away thou­sands of dol­lars in dona­tions.

Dolph also took the time to use his art and his voice to call atten­tion to the plight of Black Amer­ica spe­cific­ally in Rich Slave.

Over the course of the pan­dem­ic and the peri­od of racial reck­on­ing after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Dolph poured out his heart and soul onto this LP that described his take on what it meant to be a prom­in­ent black man in an Amer­ica that was still haunted by white suprem­acy.

In a 2020 inter­view with Paper Magazine, Dolph said the title of the album came from what he called “the real­ity of being Black in this coun­try.”

“You can have money, and you can be a bene­fact­or and a lead­er in your com­munity, but all people see is Black skin.”

He also fore­shad­owed much of the present day real­ity as the title track to the album was writ­ten in 2018 show­cas­ing America’s slow pace at acknow­ledging truths about racism in the same breath as NWA, Pub­lic Enemy, and Ice T did pri­or to the LA rebel­lion of 1992.

As the invest­ig­a­tion con­tin­ues, the out­pour­ing of love for Young Dolph is genu­ine and raw and he will be remembered cer­tainly for his music but also for his social insight and his unbreak­able love for his com­munity.

His leg­acy epi­tom­izes the best of hip hop which is you can make it big while also nev­er for­get­ting your roots.

Rest in Power.

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Zachary Draves
I am a viol­ence pre­ven­tion edu­cat­or, act­iv­ist, journ­al­ist, aspir­ing film­maker, adjunct pro­fess­or of social justice and civic engage­ment at Domin­ic­an Uni­ver­sity in River Forest, Illinois. I am based in Chica­go, Illinois.

About Zachary Draves

Zachary Draves
I am a violence prevention educator, activist, journalist, aspiring filmmaker, adjunct professor of social justice and civic engagement at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. I am based in Chicago, Illinois.