Drakeo the Ruler tragically killed after stabbing at LA music festival

Los Angeles, California - Drakeo the Ruler, whose surrealist slang made him one of the most original stylists in Los Angeles hip-hop, died Sunday morning from injuries after a stabbing at the Once Upon a Time in LA festival. He was just 28.

Drakeo died after a stabbing at the Once Upon a Time in LA festival.
Drakeo died after a stabbing at the Once Upon a Time in LA festival.  © Screenshot/Instagram/drakeotheruler

His attorney John Hamasaki said in a statement, "We spent the hardest two years together fighting for his freedom, facing life, before walking out a free man just over a year ago. Through it, we became friends and then like family. I don’t even know how to start processing this."

A representative for Drakeo confirmed his death to the Los Angeles Times. He is survived by his son and his brother, the LA rapper Ralfy the Plug.

The rapper, born Darrell Caldwell, was raised in South LA and attended Washington High in the Westmont neighborhood. He quickly developed an idiosyncratic but evocative palette of lyrics. Drakeo called it "nervous music" for good reason – his music drips with paranoia, but opens up to a rich inner world.

Ben Affleck dishes on Jennifer Lopez marriage and hits back at rumors that he's "mean"
Jennifer Lopez Ben Affleck dishes on Jennifer Lopez marriage and hits back at rumors that he's "mean"

After being discovered by local hip-hop production hero DJ Mustard, Drakeo helped define the region’s evolving rap sound, alongside peers like 03 Greedo, G Perico, and Shoreline Mafia, in the wake of imaginative, challenging superstar acts of the 2010s like Tyler, the Creator, and Kendrick Lamar.

Drakeo recorded several popular and acclaimed mixtapes, including 2018’s Cold Devil and 2020’s Thank You For Using GTL.

Becoming a star from behind bars

Drakeo had released his latest mixtape less than two weeks before his death.
Drakeo had released his latest mixtape less than two weeks before his death.  © Screenshot/Instagram/drakeotheruler

But Drakeo's rap success arrived at a difficult time in his young life. Until last year, he was on trial in connection with the killing of a 24-year-old man in 2016. He had faced a potential life sentence on charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit murder.

This led to him recording the vocals for Thank You For Using GTL via telephone while at Men’s Central Jail in LA, the title a sly yet bleak allusion to the company that connects phone services in jail. The album, in which Drakeo’s voice comes through on a staticky phone line punctuated with the company’s automated messages, was hailed as one of the great pieces of art ever made behind bars.

After he was acquitted of felony murder and attempted murder charges, county prosecutors sought to retry Drakeo on conspiracy charges related to the slaying. Caldwell ultimately accepted a plea deal and was released in November 2020.

Travis Kelce did the sweetest thing at Taylor Swift's London Eras Tour concert
Taylor Swift Travis Kelce did the sweetest thing at Taylor Swift's London Eras Tour concert

Drakeo released his most recent studio album, The Truth Hurts, in February, with cameos from superstar Drake and Don Toliver. His most recent mixtape, So Cold I Do Em 2, came out December 7.

On Saturday, the LA Fire Department responded to a call at 8:40 PM about an altercation at the music festival being held at Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park. A source who was not authorized to speak publicly identified the victim as Drakeo. The festival’s remaining sets, which were to feature the Isley Brothers, YG, Snoop Dogg, and 50 Cent, were canceled.

In a statement Sunday morning, Snoop Dogg – a co-promoter of the festival with Live Nation – wrote on social media that he’s "saddened by the events that took place last night at the Once Upon a Time in LA festival."

He added: "Last night I was in my dressing room when I was informed about the incident and chose to immediately leave the festival grounds. My prayers go out to everyone affected by the tragedy. Please take care, love one another and stay safe y’all. I’m praying for peace in hip-hop."

Cover photo: Screenshot/Instagram/drakeotheruler

More on Celebrities: