The Hip-Hop community suffered its latest loss when prolific rap star and local hero Young Dolph was shot and killed in his hometown on Wednesday (Nov. 17). Dolph, born Adolph Robert Thornton Jr., was 36-years-old at the time of his death. According to authorities, he was fatally shot by a drive-by assailant while at Makeda’s Homemade Butter Cookies, a local business he publicly supported and frequented. The rapper is survived by his longtime partner Mia Jaye and their two young children.
Young Dolph’s tragic passing has resulted in an outpouring of grief from fans and artists who cherished his unique impact on the industry, as well as their own personal lives. Having reached success on his own terms, providing rap purists a catalog of independent music that spoke to the soul of the streets, the Paper Route Empire label boss was primed to take his stardom to new heights. While that potential has been senselessly snuffed out, his legacy lives on as one of Hip-Hop’s brightest stars.
As the culture comes to terms with Dolph’s death, now is the time to remember what he stood for as a poet, a person, and a proud son of Memphis. In honor of the late rapper’s life and legacy, VIBE has compiled the 10 most memorable moments and achievements of Young Dolph’s impressive career.
The Launch of His Paper Route Empire
After releasing his debut mixtape, Paper Route Campaign, in 2008, Young Dolph decided to take his destiny into his own hands. Inspired by his fascination with money, Dolph formed Paper Route Empire in 2010. It would become a name that rang bells throughout the music industry. Supported by Dolph mixtapes like Welcome 2 Dolph World, A Time 2 Kill, and the High Class Street Music series, the label quickly rose to prominence.
Since then, the Paper Route Empire roster has grown, with Brooklyn femcee Joddy Badass and Memphis rappers Snupe Bandz, Paper Route Woo, and Big Moochie Grape rounding out its current stable. After declining multiple offers to sign or partner with various major record labels, including a $22 million deal, Dolph and Paper Route Empire became synonymous with the spirit of independence in Hip-Hop.
Collaborating With 8Ball & MJG
As a native of Memphis, two of Young Dolph’s biggest influences in rap were 8Ball & MJG, who helped put the city on the map with a string of critically-acclaimed album releases throughout the ’90s and aughts. A true student of the game, Dolph studied the legendary duo’s stylings and recorded at the same Memphis recording studio where 8Ball & MJG worked on music with producer DJ Squeaky during their heyday. In 2012, Young Dolph had the opportunity to work with the pair on his Blue Magic mixtape track, “While I’m Rollin’ Up.” It ended up becoming one of his most successful releases and marked a personal milestone during Dolph’s rise to prominence.
Linking Up With Gucci Mane
As his career began taking off, Young Dolph began catching the attention of other artists in the game, most noticeably Gucci Mane, who took the young upstart under his wing during his formative years as a CEO and independent artist. Teaming up with Guwop for East Atlanta Memphis, Dolph’s first collaborative project, in 2013, the pair have worked together on numerous occasions over the past decade, churning out fan-favorites like “That’s How I Feel” “Bling Baww Burr,” “Potential,” “Top of Shit,” and “Go Get Sum Mo.”
Releasing His Breakout Single, “Preach”
In 2014, Young Dolph dropped his Cross Country Trappin mixtape. It included his single “Preach,” which gradually caught wildfire and boosted the Memphis spitter’s stock exponentially. Featuring memorable lines like “I don’t f**k with these ni**as ’cause they shady / These bi**hes, they just wanna have my baby / Born in the ’80s, crack baby / Mama, she was in the streets, so guess who raised me,” the breakout number became one of the biggest street anthems of the year and kicked Dolph’s momentum into overdrive. Several years after its release, “Preach” remains one of Dolph’s signature and definitive hits and serves as a shining moment for the late rapper.
Climbing To Platinum Success With “Cut It”
Young Dolph made his presence felt in a big way with his appearance on O.T. Genasis’ 2015 single, “Cut It,” which dominated radio, playlists, the club, and made the P.R.E. CEO’s voice inescapable for much of 2016. Peaking at No. 35 on the Billboard 200, “Cut It” marked Young Dolph’s first top 40 entry and was certified double platinum by the RIAA a year after its release.
His King Of Memphis Studio Album Debut
After stamping himself as a mixtape legend, Young Dolph took the next step in his career with the 2016 release of his debut studio album, King of Memphis. The album’s title ruffled a few feathers and led to his rivalry with fellow rap star and Memphis native Yo Gotti and his CMG collective. But it proved to be another win for the rapper, as the album marked his first appearance on the Billboard 200 as a solo artist. Featuring the hit single, “Get Paid,” which added to his collection of landmark songs King of Memphis proved Dolph’s ability to compete at the highest level of the industry while betting on himself.
Dropping Gelato Mixtape And Bulletproof Album Back To Back
Young Dolph was particularly active in 2017 and kicked off the year with the release of his Gelato mixtape, which features “Play Wit Yo Bi**h,” the rapper’s first Gold-certified single. Less than two months later, Dolph doubled back with his sophomore album, Bulletproof. It yielded the single, “100 Shots,” which referenced a now-infamous incident during which assailants fired over 100 rounds at his vehicle. The song became Dolph’s second Gold-certified single, and Bulletproof peaked at No. 36 on the Billboard 200, a slight improvement over his debut’s charting stats.
Signing Key Glock To Paper Route Empire
The franchise player of Paper Route Empire, Young Dolph expanded the roster in 2017 with the label’s biggest signee to date, Memphis rapper Key Glock (who also happens to be Dolph’s cousin through marriage). After dropping his debut mixtape, Glock Season, later that year, he appeared alongside Dolph on the Gold-certified single, “Major,” in 2018. The following year, they released their collaborative mixtape, Dum and Dummer. Peaking at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 chart, Dum and Dummer spawned a sequel that was released earlier this year featuring the BandPlay-produced standout single, “Aspen.” Having become a budding star in his own right, Key Glock has proved to be a capable protégé to Young Dolph with his sophomore album, Yellow Tape 2, recently scoring No. 7 spot on the Billboard 200. Key Glock’s latest release confirms Key Glock as next up out of Memphis while further strengthening the Paper Route Empire’s reputation as one of the strongest independent squads in Hip-Hop.
His History Of Good Deeds
Last year, Young Dolph gifted his $400k lambo to a super fan whose nail business suffered because of the pandemic.
Dolph also gave the green light to the pregnant fan to sell the car so she can support her growing family ??? pic.twitter.com/rfErmoGqgh
— Navjosh (@Navjosh) November 17, 2021
Despite being a self-made boss, Young Dolph never lost the common touch and was dedicated to giving back to his fans and community. Remaining active in his family’s non-profit organization, IdaMae Family Foundation, Dolph’s efforts to spread love and empower others is well documented. Sponsoring Thanksgiving turkey giveaways in Memphis, speaking to children at schools, and donating money to his former high school are just a few of the gestures the rap star made in an attempt to positively impact his hometown. His charitable nature also extended to the most fervent supporters of his music. In 2018, he gifted $20,000 to two baristas who were fired for playing his music at work. In 202, he gifted a Lamborghini Aventador to a fan in promotion of his fifth studio album, Rich Slave. These moments and stories are not only a part of his legacy but also a testament to his reputation as a leader and a beacon of hope to his people.
Rich Slave Becoming His Highest-Charting Project
In 2020, Young Dolph made the biggest splash of his career with his fifth studio album, Rich Slave, which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, with 65,000 equivalent album units sold in its first week. Released nearly two years after his previous solo set, Rich Slave produced a succession of singles, most notably the Megan Thee Stallion-assisted hit “RNB,” which peaked atop the US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart and earned Dolph another Gold plaque. Rich Slave marked Young Dolph’s most commercially successful release to date and served as a bookend to his decade-long grind from the streets of Memphis to a bonafide superstar and respected entrepreneur.