PnB Rock: Hip-hop world mourns the loss of slain rapper

For a period of time in the mid-2010s, the voice of PnB rock was inevitable on hip-hop radio. As soon as he burst onto the national scene from Philadelphia, he was in demand, a master hip-hop hook who rose to fame with YFN Lucci’s “Everyday We Lit” and Kodak Black’s sentimental hit “Too Many Years.” Crossover success wasn’t far behind — from his song “Horses” from the Fate of the Furious soundtrack and from his 2019 feature alongside Chance the Rapper on Ed Sheeran’s song “Cross Me.”

Fans were drawn to his style of melodic rap that gleamed on ear-digging choruses. The emotion and vulnerability in his lyrics resonate, too, whether Rock was singing a tribute to the friends he’d lost or a love song to the woman in his head.

“He made honest music that reflects how many of us feel about this city and how many of us have felt about it for a long time,” John Morrison, a Philadelphia writer and DJ whose work at NPR, told Bandcamp Daily and more have appeared. “People in my age group, people younger than me, across the board.”

However, as of Monday afternoon, PnB Rock became the youngest artist to be a victim of gun violence in Los Angeles. While he was eating at Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles in South LA with his girlfriend Stephanie Sibounheuang, an unknown assailant attempted to steal his jewelry and shot him multiple times before running out a side door.

Less than an hour after the shooting, Rock, 30, was pronounced dead at a local hospital. A suspect was not named.

Fans, staff and industry figures mourned the loss of another young hip-hop artist. Many also criticized the gruesome video of his final moments, which quickly went viral on Twitter.

“Rip Dawg, you don’t deserve this,” said Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill tweeted. “Every time I see one of my friends bleeding to death on camera or getting killed on camera, I get a sickening feeling that I can’t even really explain…it just throws me back into the survival mentality!”

Rock was born Rakim Allen on December 9, 1991 in Philadelphia. Life challenged him early; His uncle, a father figure, was murdered when he was a child, leaving his mother to raise him and his four brothers. Rock’s mother soon moved the family to a northeast Philadelphia suburb to keep her children on the right path, but Rock was soon sent to a juvenile detention center after robbing a child in the neighborhood.

The incident ended his relationship at the time with his girlfriend, who was so sure of his innocence that she went to the police and stressed that they had arrested the wrong person.

“She was 100 percent sure [I didn’t do it]he told Vice in 2017. “I lived a double life. I didn’t want to scare her and her family. They took me into their house.”

After serving time in prison for more robberies, he decided to try his hand at music and tried to follow in Drake’s footsteps after hearing his landmark album Take Care. In 2014, he released his debut mixtape, Real N—Bangaz, and his music caught on in Philadelphia.

Early in his career, Rock wanted to give his singing a heavier street edge, pre-empting the current wave of rap-influenced R&B artists like Brent Faiyaz and 6lack. By the time he released “RnB 2” in late 2014, music was blaring from car speakers across the city, most notably “My City Needs Something,” which was written in response to the increase in shootings in his hometown.

“Younger heads in Philly were playing his music everywhere,” Morrison said. “For Philadelphia, our music scene is still very neighborhood-based and community-based. You go into someone’s neighborhood and hear what they’re playing. Our new artists are still catching fire from the underground.”

In 2015, Rock scored his first national hit with “Fleek,” turning the term from a viral Vine video into a song that put it on the national map. With haunting keys and an infectious chorus that blurred the line between singing and rapping, he set the formula for his future hits.

A year and a day after the release of “Fleek,” came “Selfish,” which became his highest-charting solo song, charting at #51 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2017 he was included in the prestigious XXL magazine Freshman Class (alongside Playboi Carti, A Boogie With Da Hoodie and XXXTentacion, among others). At the time, he was a beacon for emerging artists back home.

“As influential as we were as a city, the number of rappers from here that have made it into the mainstream, you can run the list and it’s not that long,” Morrison said of rock’s influence after fame Philadelphia. “[He made] deeply emotional, soulful music. To see young people resonating emotionally here and then to see this guy making this kind of music go off and grow is special.”

Rock would go on to work with some of rap’s biggest stars; Including Nicki Minaj, Young Thug, Lil Baby, Lil Durk and Pop Smoke. (In all, Rock appeared on eight Billboard Hot 100 hits.) He also collaborated with hometown hero Meek Mill on his 2018 single “Dangerous,” alongside R&B singer Jeremih.

Rock’s reach stretched as far as Los Angeles when he teamed up with rising star 03 Greedo for “Beat That Thang Down” in 2017. Greedo shared his dismay at the loss of another artist on Instagram Monday night, posting images of the two together from the song’s music video.

“It looks like everyone who opened doors for me won’t be there when I get home,” wrote 03 Greedo, who lost his friend and collaborator Drakeo the Ruler last year. “RIH my brother.”

Most recently, PNB Rock parted ways with Atlantic Records in order to secure a bigger piece of the pie for themselves. He had just released his first independent song “Luv Me Again” on September 2nd. Just 10 days later, Rock was killed in broad daylight. He leaves behind two daughters aged 2 and 8.

“It’s sad, it’s frustrating, it’s deeply traumatic, it’s draining,” Morrison said. “It’s like being re-traumatized over and over again. To see this young man, who had a hell of a future, being taken away from his family and the people who love him is just infuriating.” PnB Rock: Hip-hop world mourns the loss of slain rapper

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