A barrage of bullets sprayed by the shooters shattered the glass front of the now boarded-up bakery that has transitioned into a memorial site for Young Dolph. Family, friends and fans have placed balloons and flowers and written love notes in graffiti to their hero. (Photo: Kelvin Cowans)

by Kelvin Cowans —

Kelvin Cowans

I pulled up to Makeda’s Homemade “Butter Cookies” – a Memphis favorite for all of its delicious choices of sweets – and made my way to a spot within about 25 feet of where the body of Adolph Robert Thornton Jr., better known by his rap name Young Dolph, laid after he was ambushed on Wednesday afternoon.

Two gun-toting assailants killed Young Dolph. Surveillance video shows how fast the Memphis rap legend’s life was viciously taken as he stopped to purchase his signature chocolate chip cookies with ice cream to go.

A barrage of bullets sprayed by the shooters shattered the glass front of the now boarded-up bakery that has transitioned into a memorial site. Family, friends and fans have placed balloons and flowers and written love notes in graffiti to their hero.

As camera crews captured footage of the makeshift memorial to Young Dolph, onlookers took in the scene for themselves. (Photo: Kelvin Cowans)

Anyone from Memphis who knows the history of its rap culture is acutely aware that this killing is a huge loss to the area. To hear that Young Dolph sponsored turkey drives for Thanksgiving, back-to-school drives for kids and gave $25,000 dollars to his alma mater, Hamilton High, is just a fraction of the love he showed the city.

Dolph’s “swagg” – as this generation would call it – was on 100. His lyrics and videos captured his independent rise from South Memphis to hip-hop elite. It’s not that Memphis hasn’t had some of the greatest rap acts to offer up, but more so that Dolph seemed to be a little taste of all of the Memphis greats; and that his time was now.

He had the arrogance of Playa Fly; just listen to his song “Royalty.”

He told stories like Eight Ball; try out “100 Shots.”

His lyrics dabbled in pimpin’ like MJG with “Play with yo B****.”

His songs moved the club like Three Six Mafia; witness “Major.”

His delivery was kin to Project Pat with “By Mistake.”

He also had the hustle and business mind of Yo Gotti.

Yet, most importantly, he had the influence of himself. With 4 million-plus followers on Instagram, he followed no one. He was one of one and that was his attitude in his songs and life.

In Memphis, we are getting daily doses of discouragement about the loss of life, with 270-plus homicides and counting. While it is debatable about what rapper is left off my list of greats, or which from Memphis is the best at this or that, there is no debating that we have a crime problem of epic proportion.

A sign of the times. (Photo: Kelvin Cowans)

Dolph is not one of one when we explore these facts:

He was gunned down just 18 months – and in the same city – as his brother in-law, used car salesman Jeremy Jerdine, a married father of four, who also was killed by another Black man. There are more Black folks killing each other here and around America than all of the recently protested police departments combined.

We put away what can amount to a middle-size university of murdered Blacks by Blacks every year. This, as well as the hate it took for someone to kill Young Dolph, shows no signs of slowing up.

Veteran Memphis rapper Tommy Wright III (Photo: Kelvin Cowans)

I couldn’t even put on my journalist I.D. to report on Dolph’s killing without someone shooting at people near Dolph’s makeshift memorial at Makeda’s. Veteran Memphis rapper Tommy Wright III’s matter-of-fact account of that next-day shooting adds a sobering perspective to the urgency of changing the status quo.

“When it happened, me and my friends hit the ground,” Wright said.

“One guy was shot and rushed to the hospital. The car kept going and the police gave chase. I was just about to sign the wall and I heard, “bang, bang, bang!”

(Kelvin Cowans can be reached at ([email protected]); Follow him on Instagram @sixfour901.)