Rapper Drakeo the Ruler has died following an “altercation” backstage at a music festival where he was scheduled to play.
Representative Scott Jawson confirmed the death of the 28-year-old artist, born Darrell Caldwell, in an email to USA TODAY.
Drakeo the Ruler was part of the lineup at the Once Upon A Time in LA music festival on Saturday night, which ended early after an “altercation in the roadway backstage,” the festival told USA TODAY in a statement.
The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed on Twitter they had responded to an incident at the Banc of California stadium in Los Angeles. A fight broke out behind the main stage shortly after 8:30 p.m. local time, leaving one man severely injured by a suspect wielding an edged weapon, the California Highway Patrol said in a news release that did not identify Caldwell. The victim was taken to a hospital, where he later died.
“Out of respect for those involved and in coordination with local authorities, artists and organizers decided not to move forward with remaining sets so the festival was ended an hour early,” the festival statement added.
The Los Angeles Country Medical Examiner-Coroner could not yet confirm the victim’s ID, because “the person died at the hospital and the body is still there,” public information officer Sarah Ardalani told USA TODAY.
USA TODAY has reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department for comment.
The rapper had released his latest mixtape, “So Cold I Do Em 2,” earlier this month. After recording several mixtapes over the past four years, he released his first studio album, “The Truth Hurts,” in February, which included the song “Talk to Me,” featuring rapper Drake.
Drake posted “RIP Drakeo” Sunday morning on his Instagram Story, recalling how his fellow artist “always picked my spirit up with your energy.”
The West Coast rapper, known for his darkly comedic lyrics and deadpan delivery, pioneered a type of rap called “nervous music.”
He grew up listening to acts like Hot Boyz, Boosie, Webbie and Dipset, but said it was a battle rapper named Cocky who influenced him to rap. “He was so smooth and calm while rapping, despite saying some of the craziest stuff,” he told Billboard earlier this year. “It showed me you didn’t have to yell or be loud to get your point across.”
Drakeo the Ruler’s 2020 mixtape “Thank You for Using GTL” was recorded over the phone while he was held in jail ahead of trial, facing multiple murder charges in connection to a 2016 shooting in California.
He was acquitted of the murder and attempted murder charges in 2019, though prosecutors sought to retry the rapper on conspiracy charges. He was offered a plea deal and released from jail in November 2020 after three years in jail.
Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Al Green, YG and Ice Cube were among the artists on the festival’s lineup. A post on the festival’s official Instagram account shared Saturday night announced “all performances are now over” and that the event would be “ending early,” asking all guests to “please head to the closest exit.”
Snoop Dogg said Sunday on Instagram that he was in his dressing room before his scheduled performance when he was “informed about the incident and chose to immediately leave the festival grounds.”
“I’m saddened by the events that took place last night,” he wrote. “My condolences go out to the family and loved ones of Drakeo the Ruler. I’m not with anything negative and as one of the many performers, I was there to spread positive vibes only to my city of LA. … My prayers go out to everyone affected by tragedy. Please take care, love one another and stay safe y’all. IM PRAYING FOR PEACE IN HIP HOP.”
More artists paid tribute to Drakeo the Ruler on social media Sunday, including Lil Mosey, Bravo the Bagchaser, Krispy Life Kidd and Icewear Vezzo. Many cited him as the first big-time rapper to give them a chance in the industry.
“You really changed my life, thank you for everything,” wrote Damon Elbert, who was featured on “The Truth Hurts.” “We love bro, you put so many people in position. True definition of a leader.”
Sean Kingston called the late rapper “one of the most genuine souls” and “always a genuine uplifting spirit.”
“RIP Drakeo, the greatest West Coast artist of a generation, a legend who invented a new rap language of slippery cadences, nervous rhythms, and psychedelic slang, who beat life twice only to suffer the most tragic fate conceivable,” tweeted journalist Jeff Weiss. “The Ruler, once, always, and forever.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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