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Fallen Soldiers: 10 Most Memorable Hip-Hop Deaths of the 2000s

Gone but not forgotten


I don't have any scientific evidence to back this up, but I suspect that the lifespan of an average rap star is lower than normal. Between the bevy of stress inducers and drug habits that typically accompany stardom, celebrities in any field are extremely lucky if they make it past 35. The list you're about to see includes 10 hip-hop artists that died in the 2000s. All died prematurely. None lived to see 40. Here are 10 deaths that rattled the hip-hop community in the 2000s.

10. Disco D

© Myspace.com
(September 21, 1980 – January 22, 2007)

Disco D (David Aaron Shayman), the talented music producer best remembered by his signature staccato jazz and funk overtones on 50 Cent’s “Ski Mask Way,” committed suicide in 2007 after a long bout with depression. His death sent massive shock waves to the hip-hop community. We caught up with his friend DJ Warrior to find out what he knew about the young producer. Here's DJ Warrior's response to Disco D's death.

9. DJ AM

© Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

(March 30, 1973 – August 28, 2009)

When you've had so many close calls with death, it eventually becomes a numbers game. Unfortunately DJ AM emerged on the losing end of this deadly game. AM (born Adam Goldstein) was found dead in his New York pad, nearly a year after escaping a fatal plane crash that killed 4 others. According to the NY Daily News, police found laying on his stomach with a bag of crack and a pipe on his bed. They also found bottles of prescription drugs, including Xanax in his kitchen.

Goldstein's previous close calls with death include a botched suicide attempt at 22 and a plane crash that 4 other lives in September 2008.

8. Proof

© Getty Images
(October 2, 1973 – April 11, 2006)

Eminem's longtime friend and mentor Proof (born DeShaun Holton) was shot and killed in Detroit after an altercation at CCC Club on East 8 Mile Road.

7. DJ Screw

(July 20, 1971 – November 16, 2000)
While DJ Screw (born Robert Earl Davis, Jr.) is a household name in Texas today, he didn't live long enough to see his dreams materialize. Screw propelled the Chopped & Screwed form of music to unfathomable heights by cutting the normal speed of his records in half, thus giving them a woozy feel. On Nov. 16, 2000, he died of respiratory failure due to a codeine overdose.

6. Pimp C

© Jive
(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.

5. J Dilla

© Stones Throw
(February 7, 1974 – February 10, 2006)

J Dilla, 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 ?uestlove 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.

4. Left Eye

© Dave Hogan/Getty
(May 27, 1971 – April 25, 2002)

Before Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez’s career was cut short by a car accident in Honduras, she was putting finishing touches on her second solo album. Left Eye was the flamboyant “L” in TLC and the group’s sole rapper. She was the only fatality of eight people involved in the car crash. Left Eye had traveled to Honduras to document a 30-day spiritual retreat with friends and family.

3. Big Pun

© Columbia Records
(November 10, 1971 – February 7, 2000)

Big Pun (aka Christopher Rios) had a tremendous impact on hip-hop and is widely revered as one of the all-time greats. As a prolific storyteller and the first Latino MC 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 (and I don’t mean lyrically) that journalist Cherie Saunders had trouble transcribing his words. Editors also rejected his publicity shots because of how terribly 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.

2. Jam Master Jay

© Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
(January 21, 1965 – October 30, 2002)
Jason Mizell, better known in the hip-hop world as Jam Master Jay, was a founding member of the legendary hip-hop group Run-DMC. Mizell was shot and killed in a Merrick Boulevard recording studio in Jamaica, Queens in 2002. The mysterious circumstances surrounding JMJ's murder constitute the subject of various articles, books, and documentaries.

1. Ol' Dirty Bastard

© Scott Gries/Getty
(November 15, 1968 – November 13, 2004)
Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Russell Jones) is best remembered as the most eccentric member of the Wu-Tang Clan. ODB's energetic and unconventional approach to rhyming made him a standout and a crowd favorite. The 35-year old rapper was on the verge of dropping his first Roc-A-Fella album when he suffered a heart attack and died in 2004.
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