THE brutal shooting death of KTS Dre earlier this month added the rapper’s name to a growing list of stars wiped out by gun violence.
His death – along with the killings of Indian Red Boy, MO3 and Pop Smoke – has thrust the industry into the spotlight, with insiders saying “bullets fly around” and loved ones claiming many stars struggle to escape their pasts.
Taylor Maglin, owner of hip hop news outlet The Daily Loud, told The Sun: “It all stems from the neighborhoods they are bought up in.
“They are war zones, they are vicious, people join gangs and the cycle continues.”
More than a dozen talented rap artists lost their lives in 2020. More still have died in 2021, including Indian Red Boy and KTS Dre.
One problem is “dangerous neighborhoods”, according to Maglin.
He managed rapper Jimmy Wopo until his shooting death in June 2018.
Wopo has since been link to the 11 Hunnit gang in the Hill District of Pittsburgh and has been named in police indictments following his death.
Maglin believes Wopo, real name Travon Smart, was failed by a society and lawmakers who do nothing to help “kids from dangerous neighborhods.”
He said: “I think it has to do with where we are as a society.
“A lot of these kids come from dangerous neighborhods. People in government do not really try to make it better for them.”
SPATE OF VIOLENCE
In November last year, King Von was killed after a gunfight broke out near an Atlanta nightclub. The Chicago native was just 26.
Pop Smoke died at the age of 20 from a gunshot wound in February.
TMZ reported how the rising star was at a house in the Hollywood Hills at 4.30am when two masked men broke in.
His grieving mom Audrey “gun violence destroys families” and “must stop.”
She said: “Because of gun violence, I’ll never see my son run up the front of our steps, taking them two at a time; he won’t ever take my hands again and dance with me; he won’t come into my room and muscle pose in the mirror.”
Rapper Mo3 died after he was gunned down in a brutal drive-by shooting in November last year.
His vehicle was sprayed with bullets after a gunman opened fire on the Texas interstate.
Wopo’s manager Maglin said he was “immediately blown away” by the rapper’s music but had been reluctant to work with him because of his “street life”.
“I could see the potential with this kid was amazing,” he said, “but he was in the street life a little because of where he came from – the Hill district.
“He had lived there his whole life.
“I waited about a year and I saw that he had started to take things a bit more seriously.
“I connected with him and we decided to take things to the next level.
“And we did exactly that – the momentum behind him was building everyday until he signed a record deal with Atlantic. We were ecstatic about that. Things were about to project to the next level.
“And then he was shot.
“That was the most difficult day for all of us.
“He had been fully focused on his career at that point. But unfortunately who he was before, kind of caught up with him.”
Maglin said Wopo “was trying to make his way out.”
He added: “There are not a lot of opportunities for these kids.
“It is still happening now. You have other artists getting killed in their own neighborhoods. People are jealous of those who make it. These neighborhoods have not got better.”
Another issue is the industry itself, according to loved ones and experts.
The mother of Lil Peep, Liza Womack, sued her son’s team for wrongful death, negligence and breach of contract after his accidental overdose in 2017.
The lawsuit said he was pushed to perform while being “stressed, overwhelmed, burnt out, exhausted and physically unwell.” Defendants First Access have denied all the allegations, NME reports.
But Womack told Pitchfork in May: “Whatever form it takes, what I’m looking for is for people to be held accountable for their behaviour.”
Assistant professor of Hip-Hop, Dr A.D. Carson, told The Sun: “There could always be more care and more concern taken for those in these high pressure, isolating and alienating conditions.
“Record companies and those responsible for the young people could do a lot more in getting help for mental illness, health insurance – that would make the difference to both young and old rappers.
“If companies can get away without insuring or without paying for help I think they will do that – especially if the thing the person needs help with sells.”
GUNS AND BULLETS ‘FLY AROUND’
More recent deaths include rising star Indian Red Boy who was shot in the head three times on July 8 in a targeted walk-up shooting.
That happened as he sat behind the wheel of his car in the Hawthorne neighbourhood, in L.A.
KTS Dre was then killed with a shot to the face and chest – just a day after his fiancé posted his bail.
Producer Jimmy Duval told The Guardian last year: “The rap game isn’t like any other industry. There are a lot of guns and bullets flying around.”
Maglin says he would tell aspiring rappers to “try and get out through legitimate means.”
“When Jimmy was alive he would participate in local projects – he paid for the local football team jersey, he would talk to the kids, they looked up to him,” he said.
“But it was still very dangerous.
“I would tell kids to try and put their best foot forward. You only get one life.”
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