Rappers we lost in 2019

We look up to them, keep tabs on their every move, and listen to their music day in and day out. So it's always sad and shocking to hear that a rapper has passed on. Unfortunately, a large number of emcees have died in 2019, from a Grammy-nominated rapper who was killed in a place where he felt safest, to a Florida rapper with provincial hits, to an LGBTQ-identifying rapper who helped put Latin Trap on the map.

While it's disappointing that many of these rap stars died without a chance to live long lives, fans can find solace in the fact that their faves left behind unforgettable legacies and work that can be replayed as many times as they like. With that, let's take a closer look at and memorialize the rappers who passed away in 2019.

Get a kleenex (or three) if you want, because this might get sad.

Nipsey Hussle

Nipsey Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, was highly-regarded for his 2018 Grammy-nominated album Victory Lap, but his business acumen and philanthropy work were just as important. After all, it's not everyday that you hear of someone selling their mixtapes for $100 apiece while opening STEM centers for the youth in Los Angeles. He was all about providing resources to his Crenshaw neighborhood — the same area where he lost his life.

According to NBC News, the 33-year-old was outside his store, The Marathon Clothing, when he was fatally shot on March 31, 2019. By Monday, April 1, 2019, the LAPD identified a possible suspect in the shooting, who escaped the scene with the help of "an unidentified female" accomplice, according to CNN. A man named Eric Holder was arrested and charged in the murder the following day.

His death was widely mourned by members of the hip hop world, including Drake, who wrote on Instagram that Hussle had been having the "best run;" Fat Joe, who called him "a beautiful guy since day 1;" and Insecure creator Issa Rae, who said that Hussle had "inspired" her to invest into black communities.

He is survived by two children and his longtime girlfriend, actress Lauren London.

Cadet

England lost a good one on Feb. 9, 2019. That morning, rapper Cadet, whose real name is Blaine Johnson, tragically died in a car crash. According to the Britain's Press Association (via CNN), Cadet was en route to a performance at a Keele University in Staffordshire, when the taxi he was traveling in collided with a van. As of this writing, it's unclear which vehicle caused the impact. While the drivers of the vehicles made it out (although they were taken to a hospital with "serious injuries"), Cadet "died at the scene," according to a police statement obtained by CapitalXtra.

Cadet was apparently just starting to attract widespread attention. "Was chatting to [him] only last week about how excited [he was] for some festivals this summer," fellow musician Example tweeted after learning of Cadet's death. Music producer Manny Norte added that the 28-year-old "couldn't stop smiling" at all of the opportunities he had been getting before his death. "RIP Cadet," he concluded.

Kevin Fret

Puerto Rican rapper Kevin Fret, who was once described as "Latin Trap's first openly gay pioneer" by Paper Magazine, was on a mission to lambast homophobia in the urbano market. He did so through tunes like "Soy Asi," which translates to "I'm this way" (via NBC News), a song that has earned more than 3 million views on YouTube. But before he could really spread his message, something bad happened.

According to El Nuevo Dia (via Billboard), Fret was shot in the early hours of Jan. 10, 2019 as he was riding his motorcycle through Puerto Rico. The 24-year-old was then transported to a hospital, where he died. "Kevin was an artistic soul, a big-hearted dreamer. His passion was music, and still had a lot to do," his manager Eduardo Rodriguez said in a statement following the shooting. "This violence must stop. There are no words that describe the feeling we have and the pain that causes us to know that a person with so many dreams has to go. We must all unite in these difficult times, and ask for much peace for our beloved Puerto Rico."

At the time of this writing, it appears that police have yet to arrest any suspects.

Trap House

Tikey Patterson, who went by the moniker "Trap House," was seen as a legend in Phoenix, Arizona. Over the course of his 10-year career, he made a name for himself after opening for 50 Cent, E-40, and Nas (via the Arizona Republic). He was also known for his philanthropic efforts. "He was more than a leader in the music community," Justus Samuel, the founder of the local label Respect The Underground told the Phoenix New Times. "He was a leader in the urban community. He just had a voice, and he used it."

Sadly, Trap House was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in the summer of 2018, which has a survival rate of 3 percent (via the Phoenix New Times). A GoFundMe was soon created to help raise money for his medical fees and living expenses while going through treatment, but he lost his battle with the disease just months later on January 19, 2019. He was just 35 years old. 

Tech 9

If you were to ask a hip hop fan who their favorite battle rappers are, there's a good chance they'd have Tech 9 on their list. The Philadelphia-bred artist, who was born Akhiym Mickens, could go toe-to-toe with anyone — and he did, battling fellow rap wordsmiths such as Arsenal, and T-Rex (via XXL). He counted some of the biggest stars in the music industry as fans, including Kendrick Lamar and Lupe Fiasco, but he would pass away at the age of 32 before achieving mainstream success.

His death was first announced by a friend, rapper Buttah From-Da Block, through Facebook on March 25, 2019. "Unfortunately we haven't fully figured the cause of death we are still waiting on the autopsy," Buttah told Newsweek. "We are praying that it was natural causes. He had no signs of harm done to his body." 

At the time of his death, Tech 9 was allegedly awaiting trial on multiple charges stemming from allegations related to "the daughter of a woman [he] was dating," according to Philly Voice. In response to the charges, Mickens' lawyer said, "Circumstances surrounding the timing of the actual accusation seem to me to be an act of retaliation rather than ... an actual incident that happened."

Nina Ross Da Boss

Nina Ross Da Boss was Tampa, Fla.'s best kept secret. She had tens of thousands of fans, a trove of catchy singles and freestyles, and popular mixtapes like 2012's "The Only S**t Poppin." It's a real shame that the rest of the world didn't get to know her.

According to WFLA, Nina, whose real name was Jimmiel Spillman-Ingram, was the one of the victims of a double homicide that occurred on January 8, 2019. The outlet reported that details were limited, but that the rapper had been with an unidentified male when she was fatally shot. "Spillman-Ingram's car was found crashed into a nearby home and caused some minor damage," WFLA also reported. It appears that the case is still open at the time of this writing. Authorities have asked anyone who may have information to call 813-231-6130.

The 31-year-old is survived by six children, who ranged in age from 2 months old to 11 years old at the time of her death.

Willie Bo

"Song for You" rapper Willie Bo, also known as Willie McCoy, had just gotten back to his native California from a tour when he was shot and killed by six police officers. According to police, they responded to a call on Feb. 9, 2019, regarding an "unresponsive" man in the drive-thru of a Vallejo Taco Bell and arrived to find Bo lying in his car with a gun on his lap. Police say that they tried to open his door, but it was locked. They positioned vehicles behind Bo's car as it was still in drive. However, the 21-year-old became alert, at which point the officers started to yell commands, such as "show me your hands." Instead, they say, Bo reached for his gun, resulting in police firing their weapons at him. According to The Guardian, Bo was hit 25 times, including in the face and chest. He died at the scene.

However, Bo's family has rejected that story, telling the same outlet that body cam footage shows that he was never actually alert. They plan to file a lawsuit against the officers and police department.

Bushwick Bill

Beloved rapper Bushwick Bill, a member of the legendary Houston group Geto Boys, passed away on June 9, 2019, after battling pancreatic cancer. Bill, whose real name was Richard Shaw, told TMZ in May 2019 that he had been diagnosed three months prior, which came as a shock because doctors initially said that a mass on his pancreas was benign.

Despite the grave diagnosis, Bill told the tab, "It's not like I'm afraid of dying, because ... you know, I died and came back already in June 19, 1991, so I know what it's like on the other side." Speaking to KUSF about the near-death experience, Bill said at the time he was a "homicidal maniac with suicidal tendencies," and that he shot at his "girl" and their "three-month-old baby" in order to provoke her into shooting him back. She did, and according to Bill, he was declared dead and was "being prepped for autopsy" when he awoke in the morgue. He ended up losing his right eye — a gruesome injury the Geto Boys exploited for their iconic We Can't Be Stopped album cover

According to TMZ, Bill was set to perform in Texas just a day before his death, but he missed the show because he was hospitalized. A publicist for the "Damn It Feels Good to Be A Gangsta" rapper said that Bill died at the hospital, surrounded by his family. His son, Javon, told the outlet that Bill's last words were, "I will love you forever." He was 52.

Succeed Phlyguy

Las Vegas rapper Succeed Phlyguy was shot and killed during a home invasion on Oct. 12, 2019, News3 Las Vegas reports. He was 40. His father, Ronnie Cravens Sr., was told by the rapper's roommate that two armed men in ski masks entered their house through the open garage and ordered Succeed and the person he was with to the ground. 

"He said as soon as they kicked the door open after they told him to get on the ground that they jacked a rifle back," Ronnie Sr. said. According to the roommate's account, he was heard what was happening from a separate room, grabbed his gun, and a shootout ensued. Succeed Phlyguy managed to escape during the fray, but was shot while exiting the house. He died in his front yard.

"He did everything he wanted to have done because the Bible said something like 'when your job is finished, that's when I come for you,'" the rapper's aunt, Margaret Bell, told 5 News Online. "So he finished his job." While discussing why she believed her nephew was murdered, Bell responded, "Jealousy. People just don't go in there and do the shooting, they do it because of a reason, and I believe the reason was he was moving young man and moving up."

Lil John

Filipino battle rapper Lil John was shot and killed in the Philippines province of Cavite on Oct. 20, 2019. He was 35. The rapper, whose real name was John Ross Delos Santos, was sitting on a motorbike when a gunman approached and shot him twice in the head. According to ABS-CBN News (via Coconuts Manila), Lil John died while on the way to the hospital to receive treatment.

Manila Bulletin reported that Lil John and his girlfriend, who was left unharmed, were seated on the motorbike awaiting a fried chicken order when the gunman attacked. At the time of this writing, authorities have yet to identify a suspect, but their investigation is focusing on a potential motive. "Love triangle is one and we are also looking into other angles," a detective stated, adding, "the investigation on the case is still ongoing."

FlipTop, a rap battle league Lil John was best known for competing in, expressed its condolences to his friends and family in a Facebook post.

Jimmy Spicer

Jimmy Spicer, the pioneering MC who released influential early hip-hop songs in the late '70s and early '80s, succumbed to his long battle with brain and lung cancer on Sept. 27, 2019, The New York Times reports. He was 61. One of the first artists signed by rap mogul Russell Simmons, Spicer is best known for his nearly 15-minute rap track "Adventures of Super Rhyme."

A foundation of rap, Spicer and his music influenced such legendary artists as 2Pac, the Wu-Tang Clan, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, and more. Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock told Rolling Stone that when the group "first started trying rap, I used to just do the first 16 bars of" Spicer's famous song. He added, "'The Adventures of Super Rhymes' was my first favorite rap song. I don't think it was the first rap song I ever heard, but it was the first one I bought in a store ... I just know that I got it and I played it over and over and memorized the lyrics. It was the first rap song I studied all the lyrics for. I would just rap that song all the time."

Hella Sketchy

Soundcloud rapper Hella Sketchy, real name Jacob Tyler Thureson, died on June 27, 2019, following an apparent drug overdose. He was 18 years old. According to a tweet from Jacob's father, Eric Thureson, Jacob "was found unresponsive on June 13th," and "was revived and brought to the ER," where he remained comatose until his death. 

"Hella Sketchy's tragic passing is a devastating loss," Atlantic Records said in a statement. "He was an enormously, creative, sensitive soul who was just beginning to show the world his talent and originality." His father tweeted, "You are not supposed to go before your father or grandfather. That's not supposed to happen. That's not how this works. We have no words."

When discussing his son's death, Erik was open and honest about the cause. "The opioid epidemic does not discriminate. The conversation regarding drugs, depression, mental illness, social media needs to be happening more openly without judgment and stigma," he tweeted, adding, "Jacob's life was not and will not be in vain." The family set up a GoFundMe to assist with Sketchy's medical expenses and "a very important documentary creating awareness on the opioid epidemic plaguing our nation and getting honest about the effects of mental illness and depression on our youth."

Bad Azz

Bad Azz, real name Jamarr Antonio Stamps, died on Nov. 18, 2019, while in custody at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta, Calif., USA Today reported. He was 43. According to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, the jail staff discovered that the rapper required medical attention during a security check, but attempts to save his life failed. TMZ reported that no foul play was suspected. At the time of this writing, the coroner has yet to determine Stamps' cause of death.

According to law enforcement documentation obtained by HipHopDX, Stamps was arrested ten days before his death, and jailed on a felony domestic violence charge.  

The rapper, who collaborated with several West Coast greats like Snoop Dogg and Tupac, saw tributes pour in from rap legends after his death. "Man!!! Just hearing about the loss of another soldier.. Waaaay to soon! RestInPeace Lil Homie... BadAzz DoggPoundGangsterCrip," Ice T tweeted

"Damn. R. I. P. To my young. D. P. G. L. L. G. L. B. C. Crew original @badazzlbc gone 2 soon," Snoop Dogg wrote on Instagram, accompanying a photo of the late rapper. "RIP BAD AZZ," rapper Vince Staples tweeted.

Slim Tristan

D.C. rapper Slim Tristan, real name Tristan Vernon Sellers, was shot and killed during an altercation outside a Woodbridge, Va. studio on Nov. 18, 2019. He was 32.

"When officers arrived, they located an unresponsive man outside in the parking area who had been shot. ... [he] was pronounced dead at the scene," The Prince William County Police Department said in a statement. "The preliminary investigation revealed that an altercation occurred at the DMV Studios located in the above area." Another local resident, Cinquan Louis Blakney, was later arrested and "charged with murder and use of a firearm in commission of a felony" in connection to the case, according to DCist."  Speaking with DCist, Andria Swanson, the mother of Sellers' son King, said he started his rap career in 2012 after serving a six-year prison stint on drug charges. The outlet reported that after producing "a series of mixtapes and singles, documenting the pain he had endured," Sellers also "turned to the church, dabbled in Christian rap," and "gave an inspirational speech" at a local high school.

Outside of his music, family and friends remember him as a loving father of three. Carrie Coleman, Sellers' grandmother, told Fox 5 that she doesn't know why anyone would want to kill him. "I don't think anyone who's spoken to me today has revealed any kind of theory or anything," she said. "It could be jealousy, any number of things. And nowadays, it really doesn't have to be anything."

BankBoy Wayne

BankBoy Wayne, real name Thedric Morton, was shot and killed while inside a car in downtown Memphis on Nov. 29, 2019. He was 22.

The Memphis Police Department were called to the scene of a double shooting near the National Civil Rights Museum. "Both victims were [transported] to [Regional One Health Medical Center] in critical condition," the MPD's official Twitter account wrote. "One victim didn't survive his injuries. This is now an ongoing homicide investigation." The shooting, which took place behind a Christyles barber shop, drew the attention of people working in the area. "We actually heard it behind us somewhere. We immediately just took cover," museum visitor Angela Gregory told Local Memphis. "I mean what can you do. You've got kids crying, you've got the elders in the wheelchair. Like it was a very scary situation."

Preston Gray, a music producer who worked with Morton, remember his friend during an interview with News Channel 3 WREG Memphis. "BankBoy Wayne — that's what I knew him by," he said. "We communicated through music. But he was always a pretty cool guy. Down to Earth."

Juice WRLD

Juice WRLD, real name Jarad Anthony Higgins, died on Dec. 8, 2019, after suffering a seizure in Chicago's Midway airport. He was 21. The Chicago Tribune reported that the rapper "went into cardiac arrest" as a search by federal agents of "his and his entourage's luggage" was taking place. After his girlfriend informed an agent that Higgins "takes Percocet and has a drug problem," two doses of Narcan, a drug that reversed the effects of an opioid overdose, were administered. Higgins was conscious when transported via ambulance, but declared dead at the hospital. Law enforcement sources told the outlet that along with weapons and ammunition, "41 'vacuum-sealed' bags of marijuana," and "six bottles of prescription codeine cough syrup" were discovered in the search, resulting in two of Higgins' bodyguards being "charged with illegally possessing the guns and ammunition."

According to XXL, Higgins, a Chicago native, rose to fame on Soundcloud with the songs "Old Me" and "All Girls Are the Same," which topped an impressive "5 million streams." His success on the streaming platform gave way to a March 2018 record deal with Interscope that was worth a reported $3 million. Later that year, the rapper released his debut album "Goodbye and Good Riddance," from which the breakout single "Lucid Dreams" peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. His followup album, "Death Race for Love," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2019.

During an interview with Forbes less than a month before his death, Higgins claimed that he had "over a thousand songs" and talked about his plans for his future career. "I'm excited to release and to put a product out there for people to enjoy," he said. "I'm going to be doing a lot more than just music, though. So people should expect video art, short films, you know. There's a lot to come."