MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Rapper Young Dolph, widely admired in the hip-hop community for his authenticity and fierce independence, was shot and killed Wednesday inside a beloved local cookie shop in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, authorities said.
Police tweeted they had no information to release about a possible suspect in the shooting, which took place at Makeda’s Cookies near Memphis International Airport.
“The tragic shooting death of rap artist Young Dolph serves as another reminder of the pain that violent crime brings with it,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement.
The Daily Memphian newspaper reported that Young Dolph’s cousin, Mareno Myers, said the 36-year-old rapper had been in town since Monday visiting an aunt who has cancer and was also giving out Thanksgiving turkeys.
“He was inside (Makeda’s), and somebody just rolled up on him and took his life,” Myers said.
Just last week, the cookie shop posted a video on Instagram of the rapper promoting the store’s cookies, saying he returns to the store whenever he is in Memphis.
A large crowd gathered near the shop after the shooting. At a news conference Wednesday evening, Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis asked the public to remain calm and recommended that residents stay home tonight. She did not say if police think other shootings under investigation Wednesday were related to the rapper's killing.
A city council member called for a curfew. Davis did not rule out issuing one at some point.
Like the Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was killed in 2019, Young Dolph pursued an independent approach to the music business. His Paper Route Empire label retained control over his music. “I just got another vision for it — strictly 100 percent ownership,” he said in 2018 mini-documentary co-produced by his label, titled “Turned Dirt Into Diamonds.” “A lot of people, they can’t see what I see.”
“God bless Dolph,” tweeted Chance the Rapper. “Real independent Memphis rapper born in chicago. loved by millions of ppl.”
Born in Chicago as Adolph Thornton Jr., he moved to Memphis when he was 2, according to The Commercial Appeal. He said in the documentary that he'd been raised by his grandmother and tried to help his parents “clean their life up” once he found success.
He released numerous mixtapes, starting with 2008's “Paper Route Campaign,” and multiple studio albums, including his 2016 debut “King of Memphis." He also collaborated on other mixtapes and albums with fellow rappers Key Glock, Megan Thee Stallion, T.I., Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz and others.
Young Dolph had three albums reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200, with 2020's “Rich Slave” peaking at No. 4.
In his music, Young Dolph rapped about being a drug dealer and life on the streets in Memphis. He recently performed at a concert at the University of Memphis and has performed during the halftime of a Memphis Grizzlies game. He was admired in Memphis as a torchbearer of the city's rap legends, Three 6 Mafia.
Young Dolph considered himself a workaholic and in recent years was focused on growing his business. “I’m a CEO first, then an artist,” he told the writer Gary Suarez in a 2020 interview for Forbes, saying he’d strategically held off on signing with a major label. “As long as I keep going up and keep working, my value is going to increase.”
“I know what the streets want to hear, I know what the street’s going through, the lingo, the fashion, everything. It ain’t nothing; it’s my real life,” he told Suarez.
Young Dolph had survived previous shootings. He was shot multiple times in September 2017 after a fight outside a Los Angeles hotel. In February of that year, his SUV was shot at in Charlotte, North Carolina, more than 100 times. The incident was the inspiration for the song “100 Shots.” He said he survived because he had bulletproof panels in his vehicle, The Commercial Appeal reported.
Memphis officials, athletes and numerous members of the music industry posted their condolences on social media.
“R.I.P. to my friend Dolph this broke my heart,” Gucci Mane posted on Twitter.
The rapper's talent agency, APA, said it was shocked and saddened by his death.
“The world has lost an icon, a great man and beloved artist who has been taken too soon,” the agency said in a statement. “His dedication, drive, hard work and loyalty to all those around him always came first and he will be deeply missed.”
In a post on his Twitter account on Oct. 20, Young Dolph said a doctor told him he needed some time to himself.
”I never knew what anxiety meant until My doctor just explained to me that I have it this morning,” another tweet posted that day said.
In an August tweet, he said: “Still can’t believe i got to where im at in life. still feel unreal.”
It is the fourth high-profile shooting in the Memphis area in the past two months. Others include a school shooting in which a 13-year-old student wounded a classmate, the fatal shooting of two postal employees by a third postal worker who then killed himself, and a mass shooting at a Kroger grocery store in the Collierville suburb that left two people dead, including the shooter, and more than a dozen wounded.
Pearson reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Joshua Housing in Munster, Indiana; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee contributed to this report.