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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