Family and friends of slain rapper Young Dolph remembered him Wednesday as a loving father, skilled businessman and generous philanthropist at a ceremony renaming a street for him in the same area of Memphis where he grew up and also was gunned down last month.
The rapper's 7-year-old son stood on a ladder and pulled a string to remove the cover off the brown and gold street sign, not far from Young Dolph's boyhood home and the bakery where he was killed Nov. 17 while picking up cookies in broad daylight. A stretch of road near Memphis International Airport, Dunn Avenue, now has a sign bearing the rap artist's real name, Adolph Thornton Jr.
Known for his depictions of tough street life and his independent approach to the music business, Young Dolph was admired for charitable works in Memphis. He organized Thanksgiving turkey giveaways, donated thousands of dollars to high schools, and paid rent and covered funeral costs for people in the Castalia Heights neighborhood where he was raised.
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Among those attending the ceremony were his parents, his life partner Mia Jaye, their children Adolph III and Aria, 4, other relatives, fans, friends, city officials and members of his music label, “Paper Route Empire.”
“Having this street named after him will leave something visible, will leave something tangible," said DJ Rock Steddy, who was Young Dolph's DJ. ”When you see that sign, that's not just a sign for Young Dolph, that's a sign for the future of this community and this city. You all can see that anything is possible."
No arrests have been made in the killing, which stunned Memphis and shocked the entertainment world. Police said two men exited a white Mercedes-Benz and fired shots into Makeda's Homemade Cookies that Nov. 17. Police released photos taken from surveillance video that captured the shooting, and authorities later found the abandoned car.
City officials and community activists also pointed to the killing as a symbol of the scourge of gun violence in Memphis, where more than 250 homicides have been reported this year.
“We shouldn't be here celebrating Young Dolph in his passing,” said JB Smiley Jr., a Memphis City Council member who is running for Tennessee governor as a Democrat. “We should be here celebrating as he lived today.”
A private funeral was held for Young Dolph on Nov. 30. He will be honored Thursday during a public celebration at FedExForum, the home of the Memphis Grizzles of the NBA and the University of Memphis men's basketball team.
When he was killed, Young Dolph was in Memphis to participate in Thanksgiving turkey giveaways and visit a cancer center. Friends and associates handed out turkeys, stuffing mix and cranberry sauce at a church two days after the shooting, an event the 36-year-old rapper helped organize and was supposed to attend.
He also was organizing Christmas events at another church and a senior center, which proceeded without him, said his aunt, Rita Myers. Meanwhile, his plans to create a music academy at a community center are expected to continue.
Myers said her nephew was a “man of no fear” who walked his neighborhood streets alone, even after reaching stardom.
“He mingled with the kids in the community and other people in the community because he liked sharing, communicating with folks,” Myers said.
Young Dolph was born in Chicago and moved to Memphis with his parents when he was 2. He released numerous mixtapes, starting with 2008′s “Paper Route Campaign,” and multiple studio albums, including his 2016 debut “King of Memphis.” He also collaborated on other mixtapes and albums with fellow rappers Key Glock, Megan Thee Stallion, T.I., Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz and others.
He had three albums reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200, with 2020′s “Rich Slave” peaking at No. 4.