West Coast rapper Drakeo the Ruler was fatally stabbed in an altercation backstage at a Los Angeles music festival where he was scheduled to perform Saturday, according to his publicist and law enforcement officials.
Drakeo, whose real name was Darrell Caldwell, was 28.
Scott Jawson, a publicist who worked with Drakeo, confirmed his death to CNN but offered no further information.
“I can confirm his passing but am in shock and unable to share any further details at this time. I’ll be releasing a statement from his family as soon as we’re able,” he said.
Police said a fight broke out shortly after 8:30 p.m. backstage at the Once Upon a Time in LA festival, an event held near the Banc of California Stadium and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Exposition Park. The event featured Drakeo the Ruler alongside hip-hop legends Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and 50 Cent. Drakeo the Ruler was scheduled to perform at 8:30 p.m..
“During the altercation, one man was severely injured by a suspect wielding an edged weapon. Officers from the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) responded to the scene. The victim was transported to a local area hospital where he succumbed to his injuries,” CHP said in a statement.
Concert promoter Live Nation, which along with Snoop Dogg organized the event, decided to end the concert early following the incident.
“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,” a statement from Live Nation said.
The festival’s Instagram profile also announced the premature end to the event, but did not provide a reason.
“The Once Upon a Time in LA Fest is ending early. All performances are now over. Please head to the closest exit and head Eastbound on MLK,” the post said of the festival.
In a tweet, Jawson said Drakeo’s loss was “monumental.”
“No words can explain what Drakeo meant to me. Drakeo was the most original and innovative artist of his generation,” Jawson said, adding Drakeo was “a king without a crown or throne.”
Jawson also compared Drakeo’s loss to that of two other slain rap icons, Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.
CHP Public Information Officer Shanelle Gonzalez said investigative services were working on the incident, reviewing tapes and speaking to witnesses. She also said authorities do not know what type of weapon was involved in the fight and that no arrests have been made.
Drakeo got his start in Los Angeles
Drakeo the Ruler came onto the LA rap scene in 2015 with “I am Mr. Mosely” and released a series of mixtapes. He became known for his laid-back rapping style and distinctive slang, such as in his song “Flu Flamming.”
His budding career was repeatedly limited by legal troubles. He was arrested in 2017 on a weapons charge and in 2018 for murder related to the shooting of a 24-year-old man, and he was held at Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles County for several years.
As the journalist Jeff Weiss has reported, prosecutors in the murder trial attempted to use Drakeo’s lyrics and music videos as evidence against him, arguing his rap group constituted a criminal gang. A jury acquitted him of the murder charge in 2019, but prosecutors refiled charges of criminal gang conspiracy, and he agreed to a plea deal so he could be released from jail last year, he said in an interview with Weiss published at The Ringer.
“I’m a prime example of what happens to 90 percent of Black people in the system,” Drakeo said in the interview. “I was acquitted of damn near every single charge, and I still had to plead to a gang enhancement to go home.”
Those legal troubles also played a central role in his music. Last year, while still behind bars, he and his producer JoogSZN released the album “Thank You for Using GTL” – a reference to Global Tel Link, the company that controls phone services for imprisoned people – in which he rapped his verses on a crackly jail phone line. The music review site Pitchfork said the album was a “remarkable feat: a stark rebuke of the justice system and an unparalleled achievement for a rapper and his producer.”
Since leaving jail, he released several more mixtapes as well as his first studio album, “The Truth Hurts,” in February.
Rappers mourn Drakeo’s death
The rapper Drake, who collaborated with Drakeo the Ruler earlier this year on the track “Talk To Me,” posted a remembrance to his Instagram story. “Nah man this s*** isn’t right for real wtf are we doing,” he wrote, adding Drakeo “always picked my spirit up with your energy. RIP Drakeo.”
Rapper Snoop Dogg also wrote a tribute for the rapper on Twitter.
Snoop Dogg expressed his condolences for Drakeo’s family and loved ones and called for an end to violence in the hip-hop world.
“I’m not with anything negative and as one of the many performers, I was there to spread positive vibes only to my city of L.A. Last night I was in my dressing room when I was informed about the incident and chose to immediately leave the festival grounds. My prayers go out to everyone affected by tragedy. Please take care, love one another and stay safe ya’ll. IM PRAYING FOR PEACE IN HIP HOP,” Snoop Dogg’s tweet read.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly included a tweet from rapper Biz Markie.
CNN’s Amir Vera contributed to this report.