Memphis rapper and Billboard Top 10 artist Young Dolph died at a cookie shop on Airways Boulevard after being fatally shot Wednesday, Nov. 17, spurring an outpouring of grief from fans and a call from the city’s police chief for citizens to stay at home Wednesday evening.
“Tonight, we strongly encourage everyone to stay home if you don’t have to be out,” MPD Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis said during an evening press briefing. “We also strongly encourage everyone to remain calm as we actively perform our investigation.”
Dolph, 36, whose real name was Adolph Robert Thornton Jr., was at Makeda’s Cookies, 2370 Airways Blvd., following a morning Thanksgiving turkey giveaway in the Westwood area of southwest Memphis, according to his cousin, Mareno Myers.
Young Dolph, a star of indie rap and a cousin of the late artist Juice Wrld, was shot and killed Wednesday in his hometown of Memphis, multiple law enforcement sources confirmed to Fox13 Memphis. He was 36 years old.
The rapper, whose real name was Adolph Robert Thornton Jr, was buying cookies at Makeda’s Butter Cookies at about 1pm Wednesday when a gunman drove up and shot through the window.
“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 tweeted. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
Dolph, who has 4.4m followers on Instagram, released his debut studio album King of Memphis in 2016. The album peaked at number 49 on the Billboard 200 chart. Young Dolph followed up with his album Rich Slave, featuring the single RNB with Megan Thee Stallion, in August 2020.
Born in Chicago and raised by his grandmother in Memphis, Young Dolph, as the oldest brother of his siblings, learned early to be self-sufficient. His parents were addicted to crack, and his options for making money in a neighborhood racked by violence and poverty were limited to “hustling”.
“We were in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades, seeing this living hell,” he told the Guardian in 2018. “I’ve just always wanted the money. I told my grandma a long time ago that I was going to take my mom and dad out the hood. I was a little boy saying that shit. I ain’t never really had no dad, just the street’s ways, and I’m giving [people] game that their dad was supposed to be giving them, on these tapes and lyrics. My whole thing is about giving these folks the real.”
Dolph started freestyling with his friends as a teenager, and began releasing mixtapes in 2008. “It can be at a spot, it can be in the trap, it can be in the car driving – we just fucking around,” he told the Guardian. He built a reputation as a confident rapper hungry for success; as he rapped on In My System, off the 2017 mixtape Rich Crack Baby, “I clocked in when I was 12 and never clocked out”.
“I’d rather motivate somebody all day long,” he said in 2018. “To me, that is timeless music.”
He also used close brushes with death as fuel for his music. In 2017, a beef with fellow Memphis rapper Yo Gotti devolved into a spray of bullets at Dolph’s SUV in Charlotte, North Carolina, before a club experience; Dolph turned the alleged incident into promotion for his album Bulletproof, featuring the song 100 Shots. (Charlotte police told the Guardian that they counted “no more than 50” bullets on the scene, and did not establish if Dolph was connected to the incident.)
Tributes have poured in from the music industry
Dolph was nearly killed that September, after an argument with three men in Hollywood Boulevard’s tourist district turned physical; one man shot Young Dolph three times, leaving him in critical condition.
“I’ve been targeted since I was 17, 18, 19,” he told the Guardian. “I just knew that I was good.”
Yet he wasn’t “a person that lives in fear”, he added. “You got some people who really worry about that kind of shit. I don’t.”
Dolph left behind a young son and a daughter.