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Drakeo the Ruler
Via Instagram (@drakeotheruler)

LA rapper Drakeo the Ruler has died, aged 28

He was fatally stabbed after an altercation at Once Upon A Time festival

Rapper Drakeo the Ruler, known for his offbeat cadence and cryptic lyrics, has been killed after a reported stabbing at the Once Upon A Time music festival in Los Angeles. He was 28 years old.

A source told the Los Angeles Times that Drakeo (real name Darrell Caldwell) was caught in an altercation with a group backstage on Saturday (December 18), and was taken to hospital where he later died. Drakeo was set to perform at the event, alongside Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, and 50 Cent – Snoop’s set was cancelled after the stabbing.

The festival’s promoter, Live Nation, said in a statement: “There was an altercation in the roadway backstage. Out of respect for those involved and in coordination with local authorities, artists and organisers decided not to move forward with remaining sets so the festival was ended an hour early.”

In November last year, Drakeo was released from prison after serving three years for illegal firearm possession – his release marked five years since his musical debut in 2015. During a brief release in 2018, Drakeo’s music captured the attention of Migos and Lil Yachty, the latter of who remixed his hit “Flu Flamming”. Meanwhile, the rapper’s collective, The Stinc Team, were making waves along the west coast.

However, by March 2018, Drakeo was back behind bars for a murder he claimed he never committed – a shooting incident in December 2016. After being acquitted in court, he was soon rearrested for being the leader of the ‘gang’ – his rap group, The Stinc Team – accused of the murder, and found himself on trial again. His own lyrics were used as evidence against him, with the authorities trying to paint them as documentary evidence rather than art or creativity.

Raised in the Hundreds section of South Central LA – home to the infamous rival gangs, the Crips and Bloods – Drakeo was brought up by his mother, with minimal interaction with his father. At the age of 12, he was arrested and spent much of his childhood in and out of correctional facilities due to his affiliation with guns and burglary. 

But for Drakeo, rapping was a means to abide by the law, earn money legally, and stay out of prison. During his imprisonment in 2018, Dazed caught up with the distinct rapper to discuss his counterclockwise rhythms. “I always had my own sound, always made my own music,” he said. “Even when I wasn’t taking it serious, it would still sound like nobody else. I see myself at the top, as the greatest ever. I started a whole new wave, and it’s taking a minute for everybody to catch on, but everybody knows who the Godfather is.”

Using his platform to create a jerky, unexpected rhythm almost barely above a whisper, Drakeo released his mixtape, The Truth Hurts, in March this year. It amassed over 1.5 million monthly streams, and featured a surprise appearance from Drake.

Despite the slew of charges throughout his life, Drakeo was intent on making music, documenting his excitement for Once Upon A Time on Instagram. “This Saturday YOU KNOW THE TRUTH FINNA TURN UP FOR LA,” he wrote.

At the time of writing, no arrests have been made, with an LAPD spokesperson telling the LA Times that “detectives are still trying to figure things out”. In a statement shared on Twitter, Snoop Dogg said he was in his dressing room when he was “informed about the incident and chose to immediately leave the festival grounds”. He added: “My condolences go out to the family and loved ones of Drakeo the Ruler. Please take care, love one another, and stay safe y’all. I’M PRAYING FOR PEACE IN HIP HOP.”