MEMPHIS, Tenn.—Police scoured the city of Memphis, Tennessee, on Thursday as they searched for suspects in the killing of influential rapper Young Dolph at a popular local cookie shop, a shooting that drew shocked and mournful reactions from the music world and throughout his hometown.
Few details have emerged about the shooting of the 36-year-old rapper Wednesday at Makeda’s Cookie’s, a well-known bakery not far from Memphis’ airport. Police have not released suspect information or a possible motive of the shooting of Young Dolph, who was inside the store when he was gunned down.
A throng of the fiercely independent rapper’s supporters descended on the cookie shop after the shooting, and the business was boarded up late Wednesday. Police asked the public to remain calm and local leaders called for a curfew Wednesday night in fears of retaliatory violence. No curfew was issued.
At a news conference Wednesday evening, Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis did not say if police think other shootings under investigation were related to the rapper’s killing.
Young Dolph was in Memphis doing charity work, including visiting a cancer treatment center and giving away turkeys at a church ahead of Thanksgiving. He had recently performed at a concert at the University of Memphis. The rapper had loyal fans in Memphis, where they admired him for his success and love for the city. Some fans wept as they gathered outside the bakery.
In a letter calling for the curfew Wednesday, Memphis City Council member JB Smiley called the shooting an act of “senseless gun violence.”
“We lost a very talented Memphian and star known all across this country,” wrote Smiley, a Democrat who is running for Tennessee governor. “I am growing tired of issuing statements that speak to or highlight crime in our communities.”
Like the Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was killed in 2019, Young Dolph pursued an independent approach to the music business. His Paper Route Empire label retained control over his music. “I just got another vision for it—strictly 100 percent ownership,” he said in 2018 mini-documentary co-produced by his label, titled “Turned Dirt Into Diamonds.” “A lot of people, they can’t see what I see.”
“God bless Dolph,” tweeted Chance the Rapper. “Real independent Memphis rapper born in chicago. loved by millions of ppl.”
Born in Chicago as Adolph Thornton Jr., Young Dolph moved to Memphis as a toddler, according to The Commercial Appeal. He said in the documentary that he’d been raised by his grandmother and tried to help his parents “clean their life up” once he found success.
He released numerous mixtapes, starting with 2008′s “Paper Route Campaign,” and multiple studio albums, including his 2016 debut “King of Memphis.” He also collaborated on other mixtapes and albums with fellow rappers Key Glock, Megan Thee Stallion, T.I., Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz and others.
Young Dolph had three albums reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200, with 2020′s “Rich Slave” peaking at No. 4.
In his music, Young Dolph rapped about being a drug dealer and life on the streets in Memphis. He considered himself a workaholic and in recent years was focused on growing his business.
“I’m a CEO first, then an artist,” he told the writer Gary Suarez in a 2020 interview for Forbes, saying he’d strategically held off on signing with a major label. “As long as I keep going up and keep working, my value is going to increase.”
“I know what the streets want to hear, I know what the street’s going through, the lingo, the fashion, everything. It ain’t nothing; it’s my real life,” he told Suarez.
Young Dolph had survived previous shootings. He was shot multiple times in September 2017 after a fight outside a Los Angeles hotel. In February of that year, his SUV was shot at in Charlotte, North Carolina, more than 100 times. The incident was the inspiration for the song “100 Shots.” He said he survived because he had bulletproof panels in his vehicle, The Commercial Appeal reported.
Memphis officials, athletes, and numerous members of the music industry posted their condolences on social media.
“R.I.P. to my friend Dolph this broke my heart,” Gucci Mane posted on Twitter.
The rapper’s talent agency, APA, said it was shocked and saddened by his death.
“The world has lost an icon, a great man and beloved artist who has been taken too soon,” the agency said in a statement. “His dedication, drive, hard work and loyalty to all those around him always came first and he will be deeply missed.”
In a tweet, 2 Chainz said he loved Young Dolph.
“I appreciate you and gone miss ya Dolph,” he said.
By Adrian Sainz and Ryan Pearson