Houston officials vowed to deliver justice in the killing of rapper Takeoff, with the chief of police calling the 28-year-old Atlantan a “peaceful” man and urging any witnesses to the shooting to come forward.
The rapper, part of the multiplatinum hip-hop trio Migos, was at a bowling alley and billiards hall where a private party was held early Tuesday. A 911 call received at 2:34 a.m. reported a shooting in progress, and officers discovered Takeoff dead on the third level, just outside the front door, police said. The Harris County medical examiner ruled Takeoff died from “penetrating gunshot wounds of head and torso into arm.”
There were roughly 40 people at the event, many of whom left “possibly out of fear,” Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said.
A man, 23, and woman, 24, also were injured and took private vehicles to the hospital, Sgt. Michael Arrington of the homicide division told reporters Tuesday. He did not elaborate on their injuries but said, “They’re both going to be OK.”
Employees told police gunfire erupted after the party, when a large group of people gathered outside the front door “and it led to an argument where the shooting took place from the disagreement,” Arrington said.
“A lot of people that were there fled the scene and did not stick around to give a statement,” the sergeant said. “All we can hope is you all will reach out and give us evidence to solve the death of Takeoff.”
Investigators believe the suspect or suspects, possibly in their 20s, attended the private party, and at least two guns were discharged, Finner said. Police are in the process of tracing shell casings and reviewing surveillance footage, he said.
“Mark my words,” Finner said. “This great city, with our great citizens, with our police department – we will find who’s responsible for it. … We’re going to get them in custody, OK?”
‘What if it was your brother?’
Investigators face the challenge of an anti-snitch culture that many hip-hop artists have long embraced. Takeoff’s uncle and bandmate, Quavo, appeared on a posthumous 2020 track by Pop Smoke, “Snitching,” which decried “rats” and talking to police. Pop Smoke was fatally shot in Los Angeles months before the track was released.
Finner was clear, however, that investigators do not believe Takeoff was “involved in anything criminal at the time,” he said.
“I got many calls from Houston and outside of Houston, and everyone spoke of what a great young man this is, how peaceful he is, what a great artist (he is),” the chief said. “Based on what people say about him, he’s well respected, nonviolent. I would not expect him to be involved, but I do want to wait on the investigation.”
He continued, “I ask you one thing and I want this to resonate with everybody: What if it was your brother? What if it was your son? You’d want somebody to step up, so please step up. Get the information to us so we can bring some closure to this family who’s hurting right now.”
Finner cautioned against blaming hip-hop, saying, “Sometimes the hip-hop community gets a bad name,” but he knows and respects many in the community. Like Atlanta, Houston boasts a robust rap scene and claims several stars, including Travis Scott, Megan Thee Stallion, Paul Wall and the prolific producer, DJ Premier.
“There’s so many talented individuals, men and women in that community who again I love and I respect, and we all need to stand together and make sure nobody tears down that industry,” Finner said. “I’m calling to start here … as possibly as early as next week. I want to meet with some of our artists and see how we can taper things down.”
Mayor Sylvester Turner also issued a plea: “If you have any information – for those in the hip-hop community, to those who were there last night – please, please provide that information to HPD.”
He emphasized the shooting spoke to an issue larger than hip-hop and expressed concern that, though murders and violent crime are down in Houston, too many young men of color were killing each other.
“Now, everybody has access to guns,” the mayor said. “In my day, you have a disagreement – fist fight and you deal with it. In this day, if there’s a disagreement, in those few seconds when the emotions are running high, people pull their guns and then they’re shooting – and as a consequence of that, we have too many young men of color that are being injured or fatally killed and their future is cut off and family members and friends are left to mourn. This does not have to be our reality.”
Standing alongside law enforcement, he echoed Finner’s promise that Houston police would find the person or people responsible for the rhymesmith’s slaying.
“We will solve this particular case. We will find the shooter or shooters, but information provided will help to expedite that,” he said.
Rap star was on an upward trajectory
The news of Takeoff’s death was a blow to the hip-hop community, still reeling from the fatal shooting of rapper PnB Rock in September. Rapper Ja Rule tweeted, “this s**t has to STOP,” while Houston’s Lecrae, wrote, “No hot takes. No profound thoughts. Just sad that another rapper, son, brother, and friend has been killed. God be with all those who feel the loss.”
Born in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Takeoff began performing with Quavo and another relative, Offset, in 2008, and the trio found success with their 2013 single, “Versace.” Three years later, their track “Bad and Boujee” with Lil Uzi Vert thrust them into the international spotlight.
Migos now have four studio albums, two of which have gone platinum, along with a handful of solo projects and more than a dozen mixtapes. Takeoff’s 2018 solo effort, “The Last Rocket,” hit No. 4 on the US charts.
Takeoff and Quavo had just recently announced they’d be performing under the moniker, Unc & Phew, and their first album, “Only Built for Infinity Links,” dropped last month, with Billboard reporting it had reached No. 1 on the rap charts.
Hours before he was killed, Takeoff tweeted the video to the single, “Messy,” off the project. On the track, Takeoff rhymes, “Wanna know my moves and all my spots, but I move clever/Wanna know my stash, how much I got, but I ain’t gonna tell ‘em.”
Last month, he and Quavo appeared on the podcast “Drink Champs,” and in response to praise for his lyricism on “Infinity Links,” Takeoff told listeners, “It’s time to pop it, you know what I mean? It’s time to give me my flowers, you know what I mean? I don’t want them later on when I ain’t here. I want them right now, so …”
CNN’s Lisa Respers France and Chloe Melas contributed to this report.