We tend to think of the members of the forever 27 club as being rockers, probably because of the popular poster that shows the most prominent members at the time of Kurt Cobain’s death. But the genres of music that are represented by the variety of members in the club span a wide range. There are classical musicians, Mexican stylists, blues cats, jazz artists, country and western singers, and of course rock and rollers who died at 27 years of age. The rap and hip-hop genre is well-represented too, even though many deaths in that musical arena have happened to rappers at younger ages.
Patrick Lamark Hawkins was 27 years and 61 days old when he was shot to death in 1998. Known on stage as Fat Pat, he hailed from Houston Texas and was a founding member of the Screwed Up Click and the Dead End Alliance, collectives of MC’s, hype men, lyricists, rappers, djs and videographers. Fat Pat had gone to the apartment of a promoter who owed him money for a show when he was murdered inside the apartment building. The promoter was exonerated as he was not in at the time. Both of the albums attributed to Fat Pat were released after his death.
Freaky Tah was not exactly a rapper, but was deeply involved in the business. Raymond Rogers was 27 years and 318 days old when he was shot in the back of the head in Queens, New York, in the lobby of a Sheraton Hotel. His role in the hip-hop collective called the Lost Boyz was a promoter, a hype man, and an MC. The shooter and his getaway driver were both convicted in the murder and sent to jail.
What exactly is it about the culture of rap music that seems to inspire such violence? After all, America is a very violent place, and our popular culture has always reflected that fact. Western movies, Prohibition gangsters, 50s greasers, urban gangs, all of these have been a part of our society. Hip-hop in its early days had roots in protest and black street life and talk, but never really exhibited such a love of misogyny, violence, and crime until a bit later, when the combination of gangs and hip-hop music gave birth to gangsta rap.
And of course not coincidentally, that’s when the deaths started happening more often. Turf wars, rivalries, insults and retributions were all handled in reality and seemed to follow blueprints laid down in rap lyrics. Just a few of the more well-known rappers who died violent deaths include Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G., and Big L. Others have been claimed by substance abuse and related as in the rock world. Many rappers, strangely enough, have died from diseases and even natural causes, heart attacks and obesity being common.
Deaths in rap have apparently slowed since the mid-2000s, maybe because it started to negatively affect rappers’ incomes – the market for dead rapper music might have gotten saturated and smaller. While not numerous in the forever 27 club, rappers are represented by Fat Pat and Freaky Tah and their lives certainly fit the pattern of many others in the club.
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