9 Great Rappers Who Died Too Young

Hip-hop has lost many greats talents over the years. Be it from excess, accident, or other tragic means, musicians of all stripes and genres seem to leave us in their prime. The Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, and Big Pun were all ascendant hip-hop figures when they died. 

To salute rap's fallen soldiers, here's a countdown of the nine great rappers who died way too young.

of 09

Ol' Dirty Bastard

RZA and Old Dirty perform live at BB King

WireImage / Getty Images

Aged: 35 (November 15, 1968–November 13, 2004)

Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Russell Jones) is best remembered as the eccentric member of the Wu-Tang Clan. ODB's energy and unconventional style made him a standout and a crowd favorite in a group full of talented emcees. The 35-year old rapper was on the verge of dropping his first Roc-A-Fella album when he succumbed to a heart attack and died in 2004.

of 09


Proof's "Searching For Jerry Garcia" album release party

WireImage / Getty Images

Aged: 32 (October 2, 1973–April 11, 2006)

Proof (DeShaun Holton) was Eminem's longtime friend and mentor. He was a key figure in the Detroit hip-hop underground scene and helped Eminem develop into a complete artist. Proof had a respectable career of his own, as a veteran member of D-12 and a solid soloist. He was shot and killed in Detroit after an altercation at CCC Club on East 8 Mile Road.

of 09

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes

TLC receiving an award

Karl Feile / Getty Images

Aged: 30 (May 27, 1971–April 25, 2002)

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was working on her second solo album before her career was cut short by a car accident in Honduras. Left Eye was the flamboyant "L" in TLC (alongside T-Boz and Chilli). She was the group’s resident rapper. Unfortunately, Left Eye suffered the only fatality of eight people involved in the car crash. She had traveled to Honduras to document a 30-day spiritual retreat with friends and family.

of 09

Pimp C

Pimp-C Video Shoot

Bill Olive / Getty Images

Aged: 33 (December 29, 1973—December 4, 2007)

Getting a phone call about the death of his brother-in-rhyme Pimp C (Chad Butler) wasn't exactly how Bun B hoped to celebrate the success of UGK's Grammy-nominated single, "Int'l Players Anthem." Pimp C was found dead in a hotel room just three weeks shy of his 34th birthday. Pimp C left an indelible mark on southern rap, and his name still commands respect beyond the Mason-Dixon line.

of 09

Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur performance at The Palladium

Al Pereira / Getty Images

Aged: 25 (June 16, 1971–September 13, 1996)

Tupac Shakur is one of the most influential rappers of all time. Pac was gunned down during a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas on Sept. 7, 1996. He was shot 13 times, following a Mike Tyson bout. The rap great died six days later at the young age of 25. His murder remains a mystery.

of 09

The Notorious B.I.G.

The Notorious B.I.G. on the street

Adger Cowans / Getty Images

Aged: 24 (May 21, 1972–March 9, 1997)

The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace) died just six months after 2Pac's murder. Biggie was leaving a VIBE magazine party in the wee hours of March 9, 1997, when a Chevrolet Impala SS pulled up next to his SUV and dumped four shots on the rapper. Three shots were non-fatal, but the fourth bullet struck several vital organs. Biggie was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m. His murder remains unsolved.

of 09

J. Dilla

J. Dilla

Aged: 32 (February 7, 1974–February 10, 2006)

J Dilla, the co-founder of Detroit hip-hop outfit Slum Village, succumbed to complications from lupus in 2006 after a long battle with the ailment. Dilla's death left a massive void in hip-hop. Says The Roots' drummer ​​Questlove of his late friend, "If you can look at the glass and say it's half empty or half-full, he sees a third way to look at it."

Slum Village suffered another member death in 2009 when Baatin died at the tender age of 35 in his home on 14000 Anglin Street in northeast Detroit.

of 09

Big Pun

Big Pun And Fat Joe

Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

Aged: 28 (November 10, 1971–February 7, 2000)

Big Pun (Christopher Rios) had a huge impact on hip-hop and is widely revered as one of the all-time rap greats. As one of the earliest Latino MCs to achieve mainstream success, he kicked the doors wide open for upstarts like Joell Ortiz and Termanology. In his last known interview, Big Pun was so sick that journalist Cherie Saunders had trouble transcribing his words. Editors also rejected his publicity shots because of how ill Pun looked. Little did they know that big fella was on the verge of a massive heart attack that would later claim his life.

of 09

Big L

Big L in a recording studio

Aged: 24 (May 30, 1974–February 15, 1999)

The death of Big L (Lamont Coleman) was one of the most harrowing tragedies in hip-hop, considering that he was on the brink of becoming a star. Sadly, Big L was gunned down in his native Harlem. On February 15, 1999, a drive-by shooter dumped nine shots on Big L.