Murdered rapper Young Dolph left a lasting legacy in Memphis

Two days before he was shot while buying cookies at his favorite bakery in Memphis, Tennessee, the rapper young dolphin visited a cancer center where a relative had received treatment.

The 36-year-old who grew up on the streets of Memphis was in town handing out turkeys at a church and other locations ahead of Thanksgiving. He stopped by the West Cancer Center in the Memphis suburb of Germantown on Monday, spending time with clinical staff and thanking them for the compassionate care provided to a relative, the center said in a statement.

Back and forths like this had become common in his life, which ended on Wednesday when he was shot repeatedly inside Makeda’s Cookies, a popular bakery owned by a black family and known for its delicious butter cookies and banana pudding. The gritty southern town where Young Dolph grew up helped him forge the material that fueled his influential hip-hop career — and it was ultimately where his life was taken from him.

“Our associates were deeply touched by his sincerity and effort to express such gratitude,” the statement from the cancer center read. “During his visit, Dolph explained that he will soon be venturing out to donate turkeys to the Memphis community at various community centers around the city before Thanksgiving, which is another testament to his gracious heart.”

In this image provided by Rodney Herron, rapper Young Dolph, left, poses with Rodney Herron, pastor of St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, at a charity event on April 3, 2021. (Keisha Herron via AP)

Police continued to search for suspects in the murder, which rocked Memphis and shocked the entertainment world as another senseless act of gun violence against an African-American man. Police released photos from surveillance video Thursday showing two men getting out of a white Mercedes-Benz and shooting Young Dolph before fleeing.

Since his murder, social media has been filled with messages of respect and love for the rapper, whose music spoke of drug dealing, street crime and his crack-addicted parents, as well as lessons in strength and of hard-earned perseverance in the face of difficult circumstances. His legacy as a fiercely independent artist and businessman was rooted in the world of hip-hop.

His charitable acts galvanized his reputation in Memphis, a city struggling with poverty, gun violence and disproportionately high black incarceration rates. In 2020, Young Dolph donated $25,000 to Hamilton High School for new sports equipment at his alma mater.

Earlier this year, he visited children on Easter Eve at St. James Missionary Baptist Church. There he met the pastor Rodney Heronwho asked him to return to the modest church to distribute turkeys to families before Thanksgiving.

The rapper happily agreed and planned to distribute the food on Friday. Despite his death, the event remained scheduled, Herron said.

“He’s a nice young man, he was down to earth,” Herron said. “I am distraught, because I knew what the young man was doing for the community, how far he was going to go in the community. … He came back to where his heart was and he always gave.

Herron said Young Dolph discussed buying a local community center. Herron said he wanted to push to rename the center after the hip-hop entertainer.

The rapper was also scheduled to attend a holiday event for children of incarcerated parents at a church in December, said Tameka Greerexecutive director of Memphis Artists for Change.

“His generosity knew no bounds,” she said in a statement. “Young Dolph didn’t deserve to die, and neither did the children, youth and adults who lose their lives every day to gun violence.”

A Memphis police officer hugs the family of rapper Young Dolph after he was killed outside a store in Memphis, Tennessee, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian via AP)

Young Dolph, whose real name was Adolf Thornton Jr., began his career distributing CDs in the streets. He then released many mixtapes, starting with those from 2008 Paper Route campaign, and several studio albums. He collaborated with other rappers Glock key, Megan you stallion, IT, Gucci Mane, 2 chains and others.

“The street knows me, everyone already knows who I am,” he said in a 2014 interview with VICE. “True respect is real, so if you can make Memphis love you, you gotta have something real there. Memphis doesn’t support just anybody.

Like the LA rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was killed in 2019, Young Dolph has pursued an independent approach to the music industry. His Paper Route Empire label retained control of his music.

Fans descended on the cookie shop, where a memorial of balloons and stuffed animals steadily grew in front of the store’s shuttered windows. Makeda’s Cookies released a statement saying its owners are heartbroken over the death of Young Dolph, who recently appeared in an Instagram post promoting the store.

Smoking a cigarette outside the store, Marquise brand, a 31-year-old Memphis native, said he used to visit the cookie shop as a kid with his grandmother and still does today. Brand said he was disgusted by the rapper’s murder.

“It’s really bittersweet when the worst happens, and you try to do your best, with the best heart,” Brand said. “I’ve heard stories about how kind Dolph is to people. Why get rid of good people?

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