Many years (and a few careers ago), I inherited the distinction of spear-heading the first Hip Hop Intelligence Unit of its kind while serving as First-Grade Detective within NYPD. Tasked with monitoring all things related to hip-hop crime, I saw my function as equal parts preserving the public interest and also (believe it or not) protecting rappers! Yes, protecting rappers – from others and themselves. While some days this could mean protecting would-be bystanders from encountering collateral bullets courtesy of some abrupt outbreak of rap-related violence like the infamous Lil’ Kim/Foxy Brown-inspired shootout outside New York’s Hot 97 radio station back in February of 2001. Other days this meant shielding some rapper, or rap venue, from encountering a powder-keg of violence that stemmed from some undetectable beef that a member of one rapper’s entourage had with a member of another rapper’s entourage: And in this age-old scenario, two otherwise neutral rappers were almost overnight transformed into a pair of save-face enemy combatants for reasons barely glimpsed by their naked eyes.
But that was then.
What we’ve now learned in 2022 is that, as a rap artist, the company one keeps can have true life or death ramifications. It’s no longer just a matter of one rapper’s entourage-member igniting a beef with a member of another rapper’s crew, but we are now in a day and time where the peripheral members of a rapper’s own circle are not necessarily immune from igniting a deadly beef against the very rapper, they stand on stage beside! Which brings us to the recent Young Dolph murder and subsequent apprehension of the two prime suspects under arrest. In Dolph’s unfortunate murder, which took place outside his favorite cookie shop in his beloved Memphis hometown, one of the alleged triggerman (Justin “Straight Drop” Johnson) was a fellow Memphis rapper who video images show as being an occasional on-stage member of Young Dolph’s entourage. Which begs the question: How well did Young Dolph know this Straight Drop character before granting Straight Drop red-carpet access to his circle of guests? Was Straight Drop merely a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-friend-of-a-friend??
Better yet, did Young Dolph even know “Straight Drop’s” government name? Or personal history? If he had, perhaps Young Dolph would have learned that Straight Drop had been previously convicted in connection with a rather callous bowling alley shooting which left three people injured. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with extending a helping hand to others; yet there is everything wrong with not making sure your hand won’t get chomped off before you offer it. As far as the deeper motives behind this murderous betrayal which ended Dolph’s life, perhaps as this case moves forward we will learn more about what truly compelled Straight Drop and his acquaintance to assassinate a rapper – a rapper upon whose red carpet he once stood. In the meantime, the Young Dolph murder serves as a sort of open memo to all rap artists that they can little afford to be nonchalant about the company they keep – particularly not in such days and times where rappers are more and more bearing resemblance to an endangered species. And contrary to certain beliefs, the men in blue are not at the top of their list of extinction worries; they should rather be more concerned about the caliber of urban citizens they allow to casually wander into their social company. Needless to say, this added level of attentiveness could be just the thing that saves their lives from an unexpected ambush launched from within. Well, that’s all for now kids, stay tuned next time as I outline my “TEN RAP COMMANDMENTS” – a step-by-step blueprint which, if strictly adhered, can keep rappers from encountering an early grave….or a long prison sentence.