Young Dolph's partner, Mia Jaye, shared an emotional tribute with the couple’s children – 7-year-old Adolph “Tre Tre” Thornton III and Aria Ella Thorton, 4, alongside. (Photo: Ryan L. Martin)

by Brianna Smith-Herman —

Young Dolph’s life and his legacy were celebrated at a public memorial held at the FedExForum Thursday, a day after a designated street naming in honor of the renowned Memphis rapper and a month after his murder.

The memorial service included speeches from his family and community leaders, a handful of performances as well as tributes by his Paper Route Empire team and numerous celebrities.

Adolph “Young Dolph” Thornton Jr. was recognized as a family man, a trailblazing creative and a philanthropist devoted to serving his community.

The audience was greeted with a heartfelt montage of videos, footage and other highlights of Dolph’s life and music.

Next came video messages from friends, peers and collaborators, including T.I., Gucci Mane, Gangsta Boo, C-Murder, 8Ball & MJG, Berner, Paul Wall, 2 Chainz, NFL Hall of Famer and Jackson State coach Deion Sanders and his son, Shedeur Sanders. Juicy J made a poignant call to end the violence in Memphis.

Dr. Willie W. Herenton (Photo: Ryan L. Martin)

“A man should not have to pay a price of death because he excels … because he has a lifestyle of his own, because God gave him talent,” said former Memphis Mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton.

“He should not have to relinquish his life of being himself when he gives to others.… We need to love each other and respect each other. And that’s what Young Dolph was about.”

Young Dolph was gunned down on Nov. 17 shortly after entering one of his favorite eateries, Makeda’s Homemade Butter Cookies on Airways, and right before he was to meet to wrap up details about a Thanksgiving giveaway of turkeys.

Herenton called the murder another dark stain on the history of Memphis.

The Rev. Dr. Earle J. Fisher, senior pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, led the audience in a chant, calling out Young Dolph’s name, before taking aim at the legacy of racism in Memphis and weighing in on why Dolph deserved to be honored.

“If we can honor Elvis Presley, I be damned if we ain’t finna honor Young Dolph,” Fisher said.

“If we can name streets after racists like Boss Crump, I be damned if we ain’t naming streets after folks like Young Dolph. If we can erect statues of folks like Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis and white slave traders, I be damned if we won’t tear the roof off of the FedExForum celebrating the life, the love, the legacy of Young Dolph.”

Keke Wyatt led a gospel tribute, performing “His Eyes on The Sparrow” followed by one of Dolph’s favorite gospel songs, “Stand” by Donnie McClurkin.

KeKe Wyatt (Photo: Ryan L. Martin)

Cameron Bethany performed “Just Ask in My Name” by Kim McFarland, with Bobbi Storm later delivering soul-touching renditions of “Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson 5 and “Angel” by Anita Baker over a montage of loving, intimate photos of Dolph and his longtime partner, Mia Jaye.

Mia Jaye shared an emotional tribute, with the couple’s children – 7-year-old Adolph “Tre Tre” Thornton III and Aria Ella Thorton, 4, alongside.

“I have two blessings. They both, they both embody his spirit,” Jaye said. “It’s definitely painful to not have him in our lives, but one thing I know for sure, for certain, is that he is in our hearts. He’s guiding us. He’s our angel. He’s our guiding star.”

901Ent, better known as the Jookers, lightened the mood when they performed a dance tribute over a chopped-up mix of Dolph’s classic songs.

The memorial’s heartfelt moments included living examples of the rapper’s generosity with his time and fortune and his encouraging words. Speaking to that aspect of him was Timothy Fletcher; Jose Consado, who won $25,000 in a contest, and Lamborghini Jackie, who won another contest gifting off Dolph’s blue-and-orange Lamborghini.

Grove Hero with his son. (Photo: Ryan L. Martin)

North Memphis’ Grove Hero, whose real name is Mario Bradley, walked onto the stage with his young son, “So we can see that Dolph influenced generations.”

Bradley, who toured with Dolph on several occasions, testified that his life as a performer was raised significantly after Thornton recruited him for a role in the “Major” music video.

R&B singer Monica Brown shared a letter written by the incarcerated rapper C-Murder, who Dolph frequently checked in on.

Monica Brown reads from C-Murder’s letter regarding his friend, Young Dolph. (Photo: Ryan L. Martin)

“He gave things to my daughters financially. He talked to me. He checked on me weekly, and the first thing he would ask was how was my spirits. He was truly a thug’s angel,” Brown read from C-Murder’s letter.

State Sen. Katrina Robinson presented Mia Jaye and the children with a resolution from the state of Tennessee reiterating Young Dolph’s musical accomplishments, acts of kindness and community service before announcing November 17 in Tennessee and Georgia will now be known as the Young Dolph Day of Service.

Dolph’s young son, Tre Tre, gave the crowd an encouraging message.

“If you’re feeling sad about my dad dying, I’m going to let you know that everything will be fine. … If you don’t know, then I know that I will become a great man just like my dad.”