The music industry has had the curse of 27 for decades. The 27 Club members include extremely talented artists dying at the age of 27. The ongoing curse would become infamous first with artists like Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison and later Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. While the 27 Club has more of a creepy magical vibe on Hollywood legends, young rap legends have been dying far more frequently and at younger ages.
Many extremely talented rappers see their lives cut short before the young age of 25. Here are a few examples that show a striking pattern.
Possibly the MOST beloved rapper of all time, who’s untimely continues to be mourned by hip hop heads old and new. Tupac Amaru Shakur was murdered on September 13, 1996. The manner of his death continues to be a mystery amongst the hip-hop community and music world at large.
Tupac’s influence on hip hop is an everlasting one, which includes iconic hits as well as a budding and strong acting career. His message and activism in the Black community are also what makes him such a beloved figure. Shakur died at 25. RIP.
Another beloved rapper with the same huge hip-hop influence realm as Tupac is Biggie AKA Notorious B.I.G. Christopher George Latore Wallace, similar to Tupac died as a result of a drive-by shooting in L.A on March 9th, 1997. Biggie Smalls was 24 years old. His legacy lives on in his music, including a posthumous album Life after Death. Forever the rapper that put Brooklyn on the map, RIP Biggie.
Bringing it to more recent rapper deaths, a stream of high profile passings began with the accidental drug overdose of artist Lil Peep. Born Gustav Elijah Åhr, Lil Peep many credit the artist as being among the new school of rappers that brought emo-rap mainstream. A lethal dose of fentanyl took the life of the SoundCloud rapper whose fans idolized him for voicing their sadness, vulnerability, and mental health battles. He was working on the album Come Over When You’re Sober, Part 2 before his death. Lil Peep died just 2 weeks after turning 21.
Born Travon DaShawn Frank Smart, Jimmy Wopo was fatally shot on a Monday afternoon in the Pittsburgh neighborhood he helped make famous. Wopo was set to sign a contract with Taylor Gang Entertainment, the label founded by Wiz Khalifa. He died at the young age of 21.
A controversial figure in hip-hop, especially posthumously, XXXTentacion was murdered during an apparent robbery. Born Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy, the rapper was among the rising emo-rap roster of artists. Known for both his emotionally deep music as well as his assaults on women, X died on June 18, 2018, at 20 years old.
Another emo-rap legend, Juice WRLD died of an accidental drug overdose and subsequent seizure. Jarad Anthony Higgins often spoke about his struggle with substance abuse in his music. His posthumous album Legends Never Die was released on July 10th, 2020, 7 months after his death. Juice WRLD was 21 years old.
Up and coming rapper Lexii Alijai, née Alexis Alijai Lynch passed away after a drug overdose on January 1st, 2020. She was 21 years old. The Minnesota rapper sought to support her family and her community via her music. She died of a fentanyl overdose before she could see all her dreams accomplished.
Chynna Marie Rogers was a Philadelphia model who surprised the world with her rapping skills. Known mononymously as Chynna, she worked with A$AP Mob on the Cozy Tapes and released her album in case i die first in 2019. She died on April 8, 2020, at the age of 25 of an accidental drug overdose much like her mentor A$AP Yams.
The latest hip hop death to shock the community is Brooklyn’s Pop Smoke. Born Bashar Barakah Jackson, Pop was viewed as the second coming of 50 cent, with a promising career stretched out ahead of him. The King of New York was shot February 19, 2020, during a home robbery in L.A. His posthumous album Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, was of great fan anticipation and artistic scrutiny. Controversy over the album cover, track selection as well as the posthumously added record-label-chosen features was high. RIP Pop Smoke, he was only 20 years old.
Many of these young rappers died as a result of murder or due to an accidental drug overdose. Their fans were among the most shocked, as they were anticipating hearing much more from the artists. Most had much more life and music to give.
But what do their similar and untimely deaths say about the status of hip hop and rap?
The rap community needs to raise awareness around substance abuse, mental illness, and squashing beef in healthier ways. We don’t want to lose any more young artists to these preventable issues.
RIP to all we’ve lost.