Hip-hop stars and fans have paid tribute to US rapper Takeoff from the chart-topping group Migos, after he was shot dead at the age of 28.
The musician, real name Kirshnik Khari Ball, was killed in Houston on Tuesday.
Ja Rule, Kid Cudi, Khalid and Dave posted tributes on social media, while Rick Ross called him a “young legend”.
Migos were one of the most influential groups of their generation, pioneering a style of rapping in choppy, staccato triplets known as the “Migos flow”.
The band, who split earlier this year, scored several international hits including Bad and Boujee, Versace and Walk It Talk It.
The shooting took place at about 02:30 local time on a balcony outside the 810 Billiards and Bowling Alley, where Takeoff had reportedly been playing dice with his uncle and bandmate, Quavo.
Police said 40 to 50 guests had been at a private party when someone opened fire. When they arrived, officers said they found a large crowd and a man with a gunshot wound to the head or neck. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said two other people were injured and were driven to hospital in private vehicles.
At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner pleaded with witnesses at the scene to come forward. “Please step up, get the information to us so we can bring some closure to this family who’s hurting right now,” he said.
Takeoff’s lawyer Drew Findling told the New York Times the rapper’s death was “a devastating loss, particularly for Atlanta”, his hometown. There was “a sense of peacefulness about his aura”, Mr Findling said, adding: “The world was starting to learn about Takeoff. It was his time to shine.”
Migos – made up of Takeoff, Offset and Quavo – grew up together in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and came to represent the state’s capital, Atlanta, arguably the spiritual home of trap music.
Takeoff said music had offered the band, who were all related, an escape route from poverty. “Growing up, I was trying to make it in music. I was grinding, which is just what I loved doing. I didn’t have nothing else to do,” he told The Fader. “In my spare time, I’d record myself. Find a beat… just making something and creating for me. I’d wait for Quavo to get back from football practice and I’d play my songs for him.”
Originally called Polo Club, the band made their debut as Migos in 2010, and scored their first hit with Versace, which received a remix from Drake, in 2013. Their ascent halted briefly in 2015 when Offset was sent to jail following a police raid on the group’s tour bus after a show at Georgia State University.
Later that year, the trio issued the mixtape Back to the Bando, which included the hit song Look at My Dab – which popularised the dabbing dance trend that was later picked up by athletes and even politicians. They went mainstream in 2016 with Bad and Boujee, a viral hit whose quotable lyrics (“rain drop, drop top“) spawned multiple memes.
A slow-burning success, it topped the US charts two months after it was released, thanks partly to an enthusiastic endorsement from actor-rapper Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino. “I think they [Migos] are the Beatles of this generation,” he said during a speech at the Golden Globe Awards in 2017. “That song, Bad and Boujee, is just fly.”
Takeoff’s non-appearance on that single caused a minor controversy among fans – but he brushed it off, claiming he was simply unavailable for the recording session. Propelled by its success, the band’s second album, Culture, debuted at number one in the US. The same year, the group collaborated with Calvin Harris on Slide – their only UK top 10 hit.
Their follow-up album, Culture II, featured production by Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, as well as guest spots from Nicki Minaj, 21 Savage, Cardi B and Drake. Another US number one, it spawned the platinum hits MotorSport, Stir Fry, Walk It Talk It and Narcos. Around the same time, Offset began dating Cardi B, with whom he now has two children, Kulture and Wave.
Takeoff was the youngest member of the band and often the quietest in public. “He analyse a lot, that’s why I think his raps be so strong,” Offset told Rolling Stone in 2018. “He’s just powerful.” The musician released a solo album, The Last Rocket, in 2018 before Migos reunited to record Culture III in 2021.
However, the band split up earlier this year after a disagreement with Offset. “We stand on real deal loyalty, and sometimes that… ain’t displayed,” Quavo told the Big Facts podcast earlier this year. “This ain’t got nothing to do with no label, no paperwork, no QC, nothing. This got something to do with the three brothers.”
Takeoff and Quavo continued as a duo, releasing an album, Only Built For Infinity Links, which reached number seven in the US charts last month. Shortly before Takeoff’s death, the pair had released a Halloween-themed video for their single Messy.