This space is usually reserved to spotlight fresh new talent on the rise. Today, however, for the first time-and hopefully the last-I'm going to pay tribute to a rising talent whose life was cut tragically short on Monday (May 18) as the result of senseless violence. His name was Roderick Anthony Burton II, but hip-hop fans know him better as Dolla. He was only 21. Before I climb atop my soapbox, take a look at Dolla's clip for the track "Make A Toast."
As you may have read, Dolla was fatally shot in the head on Monday (May 18) at the Beverly Center, a posh mall in West Hollywood, California, after an argument near the mall's valet parking stand. I'm not sure what the argument was about and it doesn't really matter, because no matter what the issue was, it's safe to say it was not more important than Dolla's life and the life of the alleged gunman, who police identified as Aubrey Louis Berry, 23, of Georgia. The shooting may have been prompted by an altercation between Dolla and other passengers on a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, his publicist told the Los Angeles Times, but that's unclear. Again, whatever the beef was on the plane, I'm certain it wasn't worth Dolla's life.
Hip-hop, by its very nature, involves a lot of tough-guy posturing. Some of it undoubtedly is real, fueled by the harsh conditions inner-city youths live with every day. Others, however, assume the pose, thinking that have to be hard to be credible. From what I've read about Dolla, he lived a hard life. According to his bio on his MySpace page, Dolla was born in Chicago, Illinois as twin, but his sibling died at birth. After his family moved west to Los Angeles, 5-year-old Dolla sat on his parent's bed with one of his sisters and witnessed his father take his own life. His mother attempted to pick up the pieces by moving her family to Georgia, but Dolla was forced to turn to a life of crime to make ends meet.
No matter how tough his early life was, Dolla had talent and was well on his way to making a better life for himself and possibly his family. At the time of his death, he was wrapping up his debut solo album Dolla & A Dream, which was to be released by Akon's Konvict Muzik in conjunction with Jive Records. That album may end up seeing the light of day, and then maybe well get some unreleased early tracks, but that's it. Dolla's life has been cut short due to senseless violence like Tupac, the Notorious B.I.G. and Jam Master Jay before him.
Two decades ago, KRS-One stepped out and launched the Stop The Violence Movement, inspired by the death of a young fan at a Boogie Down Productions/Public Enemy gig and the fatal shooting of his friend and BDP cohort Scott La Rock. The all-star single "Self Destruction" was released in 1989. A year later, L.A.-based rappers put together the similarly themed "We're All In The Same Gang" under the name of the West Coast Rap All-Stars. Since then, KRS-One has made two attempts in recent years to re-launch the campaign, but sadly it has fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps what's needed is for the genre's biggest current stars have to get together--the means Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Eminem and others--drop the pose and put out a record that denounces gun violence. Sure their images might take a hit, but if it saves a few lives, won't it be worth it?
Here's another look at Dolla in the clip "Who The F Is That?" Sadly, with the news of his tragic killing, new fans just discovering the rapper may be left wondering, "Who The F Was That?"