Rappers we lost in 2018

Death, inevitably, happens to everyone, but it's always a little hard to believe when some of the most legendary or promising musicians pass on. It's easy to feel personally connected to these artists through their tunes. Unfortunately, 2018 has already seen the untimely deaths of a long list of influential rappers. 

A Billboard-charting newcomer lost his life after he was reportedly gunned down in a botched robbery; a rising talent out of Toronto with ties to Drake was killed in a triple-shooting; a Hip Hop pioneer succumbed to health issues; a budding talent from Washington D.C. was murdered in cold blood. Sadly, the list goes on and on.

Although these stars are no longer with us, their art, accolades, and performances are etched in our memories. Grab a tissue (or ten) and join us as we reflect on the legacies they've left behind in the wake of their unfortunate deaths. Here are rappers who died in 2018.

Mac Miller

Twenty-six-year-old rapper Mac Miller was found dead in his home from an apparent overdose on Sept. 7, 2018. Known for his artistic reinvention and witty wordplay, Miller struggled with substance abuse and depression throughout his career. He rapped about his use of various drugs and was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in May 2018 after crashing his G-Wagon into a utility pole

That crash occurred just days after his breakup with pop star Ariana Grande, who claimed his substance abuse problems played a role in their split. "I am not a babysitter or a mother and no woman should feel that they need to be," she tweeted after the break. "I have cared for him and tried to support his sobriety & prayed for his balance for years."

Miller opened up about his arrest with Apple Music's Beats 1 radio in July 2018, calling it "the best thing that could have happened." He said he "lived a certain life for 10 years and faced almost no real consequence at all. Yeah I made a stupid mistake. I'm a human being … I needed to run into that light pole and literally like have the whole thing stop."

In an August 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, Miller claimed he did not have a drug problem. "Have I done drugs? Yeah. But am I a drug addict? No," he said. In February 2016, Miller said in a mini-documentary for Fader, "I'd rather be the corny white rapper than the drugged-out mess who can't even get out of his house. Overdosing is just not cool … You don't go down in history because you overdosed. You just die."

Miller's family released a statement following his death that said, in part: "He was a bright light in this world for his family, friends and fans. Thank you for your prayers."

If you or someone you know is seeking help and support to deal with substance abuse or mental health issues, please call SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

XXXTentacion

Controversial Florida rapper Jahseh "XXXTentacion" Onfroy first found fame with the track "Look At Me." The song — which features Onfroy dipping and diving over its distorted beat with mumbles, raps, and screams — was initially a sleeper hit upon its release to SoundCloud in 2015, but when it was re-released in early 2017, it received mainstream attention, solidifying XXXTentacion as a promising act and earning him a spot as an XXL Freshman that year.

But Onfroy's rise — further accelerated by multiple Billboard-charting hits and his No. 1 album ? — wasn't without blemishes. By early 2018, the rapper was embroiled in legal issues tied to his ex-girlfriend, including charges of domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, and witness tampering, reported Pitchfork. He maintained his innocence, but never saw his day in court.

XXXTentacion was gunned down at a motorcycle shop in Deerfield Beach, Fla. on June 18, 2018. According to TMZ, the 20-year-old was shot in the neck and appeared to die instantly in what law enforcement sources said was possibly a robbery gone wrong. The rapper's Louis Vuitton bag containing $50,000 was missing from the scene. At the time of this writing, four suspects have been indicted in connection with the murder.

Louis BadAzz

Twenty-nine-year-old Louis BadAzz (real name Louis Robinson Jr.), received his first taste of fame with his 2015 song "Let Me Thru Dis B," which amassed more than 100,000 views on YouTube. The song drew comparisons to the sounds of fellow Louisiana rappers Lil Boosie and Webbie, and was even reportedly performed by Southern University's Human Jukebox marching band in 2016. But tragedy struck just two years later, changing his life's path forever.

Robinson was shot in a brazen daylight attack in Baton Rouge, La. on May 2, 2018. He managed to get to a nearby hospital to receive medical attention but died about an hour later, reported ABC News affiliate WBRZ.

His mother, Elizabeth Robinson, spoke about her son's murder with The Advocate, pleading for an end to gun violence. "It's just got to stop," she said. "I don't want anybody to go retaliate or somebody else get killed … It's just not worth it." She noted that her son had served six years in the Army, and she felt like he was safer in that realm — even though combat zones were a possibility — than he was in his hometown. "I felt he was going to be OK there, compared to these streets," she said.

At the time of this writing, police have not made any arrests in Robinson's murder.

Smoke Dawg

Canadian rapper Smoke Dawg (real name Jahvante Smart), was best known for 2015's "Trap House," but his exposure increased in 2017, when he traveled alongside Drake for his Boy Meets World tour. Unfortunately, Smoke Dawg's ascension to stardom was cut short when he was violently killed in a triple shooting outside of a nightclub in Toronto on June 30, 2018.

Following the news of Smart's death, Drake took to Instagram to pay his respects to his fallen friend: "All these gifts and blessed souls and inner lights being extinguished lately is devastating," Drake captioned a performance photo with Smoke Dawg (via USA Today). "I wish peace would wash over our city. So much talent and so many stories we never get to see play out. Rest up Smoke."

At the time of this writing, police are eyeing two suspects in the 21-year-old's death, which is rumored to be linked to a video Smoke Dawg filmed on a rival gang's turf. 

Fredo Santana

Chicago drill rapper Derrick "Fredo Santana" Coleman, the older cousin of rapper Chief Keef, battled drugs for years. That was no secret. "He spoke about his drug use and trying to escape the PTSD he had from growing up in the hood, surrounded by violence," fellow rapper Vic Mensa said (via the Mirror). "I call it post traumatic streets disorder."

By October 2017, Santana's lifestyle reportedly landed him in a hospital for liver and kidney failure. According to XXL magazine, some speculated his health problems were tied to his alleged habit of drinking "lean" — a mixture of prescription cough syrup and soda that gives off a legal high but can result in liver failure or seizures after prolonged consumption. During his hospital stay, Santana tweeted that he was considering going to rehab.

Sadly, Santana never made a full recovery. According to TMZ, the 27-year-old was found dead in his home following a "fatal seizure" on Jan. 19, 2018.

Jimmy Wopo

Jimmy Wopo (real name Travon Smart) was on the rise, thanks to his standout 2016 track "Elm Street," where he interpolates Freddy Krueger's theme song over pounding piano notes. The song was a major success in Wopo's hometown of Pittsburgh, and some suggest its influence is heard in Kendrick Lamar's groundbreaking 2017 hit, "HUMBLE." 

Wopo's life was cut short at age 21 when he was murdered in a double shooting in Pittsburgh's Hill District on June 18, 2018. According to the PIttsburgh Post Gazette, law enforcement sources said Wopo and another passenger were sitting in a vehicle when they were shot by an unknown assailant. The other passenger survived his injuries, but Wopo — who was shot in the head — died at a nearby hospital. 

The shooting reportedly happened just days after Wopo signed a deal with fellow Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa's label, Taylor Gang.

Craig Mack

Craig Mack's legacy will always be connected to the 1994 hit "Flava In Ya Ear." That song — through its funky yet sultry beat, coupled with Mack's playful rap style —  put Sean "Diddy" Combs' iconic Bad Boy label on the map. The track peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned platinum certification. The record also positioned Mack for widespread mainstream success, but by 1995, Mack and his debut album, Project: Funk da World, were eclipsed by his labelmate, The Notorious B.I.G., whose critically-acclaimed Ready to Die was released just a week before Mack's project.

Mack was subsequently dropped from Bad Boy, releasing his second album, Operation: Get Down, in 1997 to little fanfare. He eventually left the industry, and things were rough for the rapper for a while. At one point, Mack said he even considered killing someone in the music industry he'd been beefing with over money. That moment prompted Mack to leave his home in New York and join a "hyper-conservative religious" community known as the Overcomer Ministry in South Carolina, where he spent the remaining years of his life. According to Newsweek, Mack passed away from congestive heart failure on March 12, 2018. He was 47 years old.

A1 Lil Tony

Rising Washington D.C. rapper A1 Lil Tony (real name Antonio Harper, Jr.) was killed in a shooting on May 1, 2018, leaving behind a growing fan base on social media. According to ABC News affiliate WJLA, A1 Lil Tony was walking toward his mother's apartment complex in Waldorf, Md., around 10 p.m., when he was approached by a gunman and shot several times. He died on the scene. Police reportedly believe Harper was targeted; the person he was accompanied by was left unharmed. 

The "Talk of the Streets" rapper reportedly tweeted a cryptic message about a half hour before his murder, writing (via NBC Washington), "We going to keep riding around wit dem glocks until we find dem." However, it's worth noting that the post is actually a lyric to Atlanta-based rapper Lil Baby's song "In My Bag." His family reportedly told WJLA that his tough image was just a persona.

At the time of this writing, police have made no arrests in connection with the 20-year-old's murder. A reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest or indictment.

Lovebug Starski

The hip hop community was rocked by the sudden death of the legendary rapper and DJ known as Lovebug Starski (real name Kevin Smith) on Feb. 8, 2018. He was just 57 years old when he passed away at his home in Las Vegas from a heart attack, reported HipHopDX.

Starski was widely credited with coining the phrase "hip hop" when the genre was still in its infancy, using it in his rhymes throughout the '70s and '80s. He went on to release multiple records in the '80s, including "Amityville (The House on the Hill)," "Do the Right Thing," and "You've Gotta Believe," but Starski was ultimately overshadowed by other artists who exploded onto the rap scene, and he arguably never got the recognition he deserved. 

Thankfully, he was immortalized on The Notorious B.I.G.'s classic 1994 hit, "Juicy," in which he raps: "Who ever thought that hip-hop would take it this far? / Peace to Ron G, Brucie B, Kid Capri, Funkmaster Flex, Lovebug Starski." 

Indeed. Rest in peace, Lovebug Starski.

Phanelli

Melvin "Phanelli" Batties was shot and killed in the Bronx on Jan. 16, 2018. According to the New York Daily News, the 34-year-old rapper died after being shot in the neck in the courtyard of a housing project — the same area he'd reportedly recorded his 2017 gritty banger "Half A Mil," in which he brags about his gang lifestyle and flaunts red and blue bandanas, the hallmarks of the Bloods and Crips gangs, respectively.

At the time of this writing, no suspects are in police custody for Batties' murder, and the motive remains unclear. A witness told the Daily News that she heard multiple shots ring out before seeing two men run in the opposite direction of the shooting.

Batties' friend, William David, seemed blindsided by the rapper's death. "He was cool, funny and an outgoing person," he told the paper. "…He had no enemies. There are just certain situations you can't control."

Big T

Big T's time in the spotlight was brief but unforgettable. Born Terence Prejean, he was featured on Lil' Troy's "Wanna Be a Baller" in 1999, which peaked at No. 70 on the Billboard 200 chart and propelled their distinctive Texas sound into the spotlight.

According to Billboard, "Big T was nicknamed the 'Million Dollar Hook Man' and was frequently featured in releases by other musicians." He was "probably better known by ear than by name for providing catchy hooks, choruses and other contributions," but Big T did release projects of his own, including 2001's Million Dollar Hooks, a stunning collection of his signature soulful sound. According to the Houston Chronicle, he sold 15,000 copies of that album solely through word of mouth, but he never replicated the mainstream triumph of "Wanna Be a Baller." 

Sadly, this Hip Hop talent passed away on May 7, 2018, at the age of 52. Big T's longtime friend, Tony Williams (aka Tiger T), told Billboard that the iconic hook man may have died from a heart attack.

C Struggs

It's tough having the weight of Texas on your shoulders as an artist. But Dallas MC C Struggs (real name Corey Struggs) seemed primed for super-stardom. He caught the music industry's attention in 2016 when he collaborated with Rick Ross on "Do It," perfectly executing a gritty and commanding street rap. Other tracks, including "Work," "How Ya Come," and "Give 2 Fuccs" further upped the ante and set Struggs apart from his peers. It seemed all he needed was the right exposure to springboard him into mainstream success. Sadly, Struggs never got that chance. He died Aug. 3, 2018 after battling cancer.

According to The Sun, the 32-year-old was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and given just eight weeks to live. The disease reportedly "ripped through his body" in his final days, but insiders told told Urban Islandz that Scruggs was in good spirits and still working on music in the days leading up to his death. "His death is a big blow to the community because he was someone who was loved by everyone he ain't got no beef, everyone love Struggs," a source said.

Jon James

Though fresh on the music scene, Canadian artist Jon James was also an accredited professional skier whose Instagram featured clips of his many extreme stunts. Unfortunately, the 34-year-old's aspirations were cut short in a tragic accident. James was shooting a video in Vernon, British Columbia on Oct. 20, 2018 when he was killed after a stunt involving an airplane went awry.

According to James' management team, the stunt involved him rapping while walking on the wing of the plane — something he'd apparently been training "intensely" for months to complete. However, James reportedly walked too far out on the wing, sending the aircraft into a downward spiral. "Jon held onto the wing until it was too late, and by the time he let go, he didn't have time to pull his [parachute]. He impacted and died instantly," a spokesperson told CNN. The pilot was able to regain control and land the plane safely.

Young Greatness

Rapper Theodore Jones, better known by his stage name Young Greatness, kicked off his career with his Billboard-charting hit "Moolah," which was released by Capitol Records and Atlanta's Quality Control Music, current home to Migos and Lil Yachty. As noted by Rolling Stone, the song earned Jones an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and a deal with Cash Money records — not to mention his first gold certification. But before the Louisiana-born rapper could truly find success like his labelmates Nicki Minaj and Drake, he was fatally shot and killed in New Orleans.

According to TV station WDSU, in the early hours of Oct. 29, 2018, the 34-year-old was sitting in his car outside of a Waffle House when gunfire broke out. Investigators reportedly found Jones with a single gunshot wound to the back, and said that his vehicle was taken by the shooters. At the time of this writing, a motive behind the shooting is still unknown.

YNW Juvy and YNW Sakchaser

Florida rappers Christopher "YNW Juvy" Thomas, 19, and Anthony "YNW Sakchaser" Williams, 21, were destined for big things. Through their affiliation to YNW Melly, a prominent Florida rapper with a blossoming fan base and tens of millions of views on YouTube, the pair were in a fantastic position for success. The proof lies in the trio's 2017 song "Youngins," which became a regional hit and sits at nearly 2 million views on YouTube, as of this writing. But before Juvy and Sakchaser could live out their rap dreams, they were killed by a flurry of bullets on Oct. 26, 2018.

According to TCPalm, the pair was last seen alive just after 3 a.m. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Some time over the next hour, both men were hit by gunfire and subsequently taken to a local hospital with grave injuries. "They arrived with multiple gunshot wounds," Miramar police spokeswoman Tania Rues explained, per TCPalm. "They were dead already." At the time of this writing, the location of the shooting and the gunman have yet to be revealed.

Marley G

Rising Louisiana rapper Marley G, born Taji Simon, died doing what he loved. According to HipHopDX, the 20-year-old, who was signed to iconic record label Rap-A-Lot records, had been enjoying a night out at a Louisiana club among crowds of guests on Oct. 14, 2018 when he and another man, Derrick McGlory, were shot and killed. A 28-year-old suspect was quickly arrested for the shootings and charged with two counts of first-degree murder, per NBC/CBS News affiliate KALB. Though there's still no motive behind the murders at the time of this writing, Marley's mother, Wakena Williams, would later tell KALB that her son's chain was missing from the scene, indicating that he may have been killed in a robbery.

The news of his death quickly circulated online, where his fans and members of the hip hop community mourned his passing, including rap veteran Lil KimYBN Nahmir, and Trae Tha Truth.

Marley G leaves behind a legacy that includes his hit provincial songs "I Got Em" and "Worried Bout It," and tens of thousands of fans.

HHP

Celebrated South African rapper Jabulani Tsambo — also known as HHP (Hip Hop Pantsula) — shocked the world with his death from an apparent suicide on Oct. 24, 2018. However, it was an event that those closest to him saw coming. His childhood friend, Motlapele "Molemi" Morule, told the Sunday Times that he had been worried about HHP dying since 2001. "It's hard to put into words. Jabulani struggled with questions that couldn't be answered," Morule explained (via TimesLive). "There were countless times, hundreds of times, that made me go home and worry."

HHP himself opened up about some of those events in a 2016 radio interview, admitting that he'd battled with depression and had attempted suicide three times the year before. While the official cause of his death is still pending at the time of this writing, he appeared to succumb to his troubles two years later at the age of 38, leaving behind a note (per TimesLive) that reportedly read, "I'm depressed. I am going out of control. I'm losing it."

He is survived by his wife, son, parents, two sisters, and nephew, according to a statement from his family.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).