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Gunned down: Memphis rapper Young Dolph

by Brianna Smith-Herman —

Adolph Robert Thornton Jr. – known to most as rapper Young Dolph – now is known as yet another fatality in a struggle against gun violence that is testing the resolve of murder-marred Memphis.

As word spread Wednesday afternoon that Young Dolph had been shot down, people flowed to the scene. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

The 36-year-old rapper reportedly was making a purchase at Makeda’s Butter Cookies, 2370 Airways Blvd., when a car drove up to the storefront and shots rang out on Wednesday afternoon.

And in this age of social media, the news was transferred in an instant.

“I was in the Family Dollar and heard about 50 shots rang out and immediately ran out and heard people saying, ‘they shot Dolph’,” a young woman conveyed live from her Facebook page.

As fans of the rapper shared that his vehicle, a camouflage print Ferrari, was spotted in a parking lot near the scene, people flowed to the area.

At a late evening press conference, Memphis Police Department Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis cautioned about “some erroneous reports” on social media, adding that police were talking to witnesses and checking to see if there is any video of the fatal shooting.

Dolph, who was seriously popular in some circles, had been involved in some very public squabbles and that fact contributed to a general – but quite noticeable – sense of uneasiness that enveloped parts of the city on Wednesday.

“The Memphis Police Department is providing an increased presence in areas of the city that might be directly impacted by this unfortunate incident,” said Davis. “We also encourage anyone with information about this incident to call Crime Stoppers at 901-528-2274.”

Davis said there was no cause for a curfew.

Young Dolph shown here in November 2018 orchestrating his community giveback at the Memphis Athletic Ministries Hamilton Center. Dolph, who attended Hamilton High School, held a rally for the local youth, as well as a turkey giveaway for families in need. (Photo: Johnathan Martin/TSD Archives)

Born in Chicago, Young Dolph grew up in Memphis and started rapping as he got older, releasing his first mixtape, “Paper Route Campaign,” in 2008.

As his profile grew, he began getting co-signs from rappers such as Gucci Mane and 2Chainz. He scored a major break in 2015 when featured on O.T. Genasis’ hit, “Cut It.” The next year he dropped his proper debut album, “King of Memphis.”

Fast with a punchline and boast, he could also be brutally honest about topics such as violence or growing up with parents who struggled with addiction.


Young Dolph on “The Breakfast Club”


Some mistakenly took his song, “In My System,” as a celebration of drug use. He set the record straight in a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone: 

“It’s really me describing where I come from, my background, and who made me and how I was made,” he said.

“It’s my mama and daddy. I got the cocaine running through my system because, like, I was saying that’s what my mama and daddy did. That’s what they was on. That’s what they was into.”

Dolph was no stranger to controversy, including a feud with fellow Memphis rapper Yo Gotti. Not long after he released a video for his Yo Gotti diss track “Play Wit Yo B***h” in February 2017, over 100 shots were fired at his bulletproof SUV while in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Unharmed, he released a single, “100 Shots,” a few months later. In September of that year, he was hospitalized after being shot multiple times outside of The Shoe Palace in Hollywood.

In 2019, he was the victim of a burglary. According to ABC News, his Mercedes-Benz was broken into while he was in a Cracker Barrel in Atlanta, with assailants reportedly taking off with items worth millions.

His success projects as a rapper include “Role Model, Dum and Dummer” in 2018 with fellow Memphis rapper Key Glock. He also scored popular singles with “Major,” featuring Key Glock, and “RNB,” featuring Megan Thee Stallion. 

Throughout his career, Dolph maintained his independence, releasing albums and mixtapes via his own Paper Route Empire label.

Young Dolph getting involved this past Easter. He added his star presence to an Easter weekend celebration for neighborhood children in Castalia Heights at St. James Baptist Church, where he lined up with Pastor Rodney and rapper Yo with Dolph’s PRE label. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/TSD Archives)

Synonymous with Memphis, he celebrated the city and its hip-hop history, once saying, “Memphis created a lot of the sound that’s going on in today’s rap. Our flow, our whole delivery, everything, it’s just the style of Memphis.”

For some, he was the good guy responsible for handing out turkeys around Thanksgiving and donating money to his former high school.

With 4.6 million-plus followers on Instagram, many flooded the platform to share their condolences.

“To most, he was a rapper from the city, but Adolph was much more than just a rapper,” said Lindsay Porter.

“He did a lot for his neighborhood and his city. They took him out in his own hood, where he feeds families and puts money in families’ pockets to help them get on their feet – a real family man. All the schools, kids and families he’s helped, and they took him out in South Memphis. … Sad day for the city.”

Makeda’s Cookies featured this post: “We are heartbroken and saddened by the passing of Young Dolph … He was a regular customer and loved Makeda’s Cookies. Our hearts and condolences go out to his family.”

The City of Memphis shared this:

“Our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Young Dolph. The city of Memphis has lost a talented artist and community-minded man. As our city mourns, we ask all citizens to remain calm and peaceful.”

(John Semien contributed to this report.)

 

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