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Drakeo the Ruler, Influential West Coast Rapper, Dead at 28

Drakeo. Photo: Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Update: Tuesday, December 21, at 9:15 a.m.: Drakeo’s mother, Darrylene Corniel, remembered her late son in a new interview with Rolling Stone. “Darrell, my son, had a good heart,” she said. “He took care of those around him because I taught him that, to watch out for everybody. People who really know my son knew he was a real individual. He had a genuine heart.” Corniel added that she plans to sue over an alleged lack of security at Once Upon a Time in L.A., which she believes contributed to Drakeo’s death after he was stabbed backstage. Corniel’s interview comes after Drakeo’s brother, rapper Ralfy the Plug, remembered him shortly after news of his death Sunday. “He just wanted to see everybody winning and it seemed like everybody wanted to see him loose,” he wrote on social media. “words can’t even explain wat i’m going threw.”

Original story follows.

Vulture can confirm Drakeo the Ruler (real name Darrell Caldwell), influential Los Angeles rapper, has died at age 28 following a reported stabbing backstage at Once Upon a Time in LA festival, where he was scheduled to perform, on Saturday night at Banc of California and Exposition Park. Writer Jeff Weiss first reported the news on Twitter, writing about the passing of “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.” Just last year, on November 4, 2020, the rapper was released from prison after being found not guilty of murder and attempted murder in July 2019. Both TMZ and James Queally for the L.A. Times also reported the news earlier Sunday morning. Following the reported stabbing, the remainder of the festival — which included headliners Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, YG, Ice Cube, and more — was canceled, though no reason was given. Live Nation, the festival’s organizer, said in a statement to Variety, “There was an altercation in the roadway backstage. 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.”

While in L.A. County Men’s Central Jail, Drakeo the Ruler released his 2020 album Thank You for Using GTL — recorded entirely over the prison phone system of the same name — which critics dubbed the “best jail rap album ever.” Then, in February 2021, the rapper also collaborated with Drake on his song “Talk to Me,” a feat that Vulture writer Justin Curto named “practically fated from the start.” Drakeo the Ruler dropped four albums in 2021, The Truth Hurts, A Cold Day in Hell, Ain’t That The Truth, and So Cold I Do Em 2 just earlier this month. Below are remembrances and tributes via Twitter to Drakeo the Ruler, from friends, industry collaborators, celebrities, and more.

This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.

Drakeo the Ruler, Influential West Coast Rapper, Dead at 28