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Migos rapper Takeoff shot dead in Houston at the age of 28

The rapper was shot at a bowling alley in Houston

By Jodi Guglielmi

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 29: Takeoff of Unc & Phew performs during Lil Weezyana 2022 at Champions Square on October 29, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images) GETTY IMAGES

Takeoff, a member of the rap trio Migos alongside rappers Quavo and Offset, has died.

The rapper, real name Kirshnik Khari Ball, was shot in Houston early Tuesday morning, Rolling Stone has confirmed. He was 28. According to TMZ, Ball was shot at a bowling alley around 2:30 am. He was with Quavo — who was unharmed in the shooting — at the time of his death. Two other people on the premises were shot and taken to hospital, Houston Police confirmed.

Takeoff began rapping with Quavo and Offset, his uncle and cousin, respectively, in 2008 under the name Polo Club before eventually changing their moniker to Migos. Together, Migos released their debut mixtape Juug Season in 2011. But the trio shot to notoriety in 2013 with their first mainstream hit, “Versace.” The song was later remixed by Drake, solidifying a years-long relationship between the artists. In 2016, they released another certified hit with their Lil Uzi Vert collaboration, “Bad and Buojee.” With the track, the Migos had solidified their signature rhyme style: short bursts of words in triplet rhythm.

While most of Takeoff’s discovery is with Migos, he released a solo album in 2018 titled The Last Rocket to some success. In more recent months, Takeoff and Quavo had briefly separated from Offset and were producing music as a duo. In October, they released their newest album, Only Built For Infinity Links.

Takeoff was born June 18, 1994, and grew up in the Atlanta suburbs of Gwinnett County. He spent much of his childhood with Quavo and Offset, the three of them even living together for many years in the same small house with Quavo’s mother. A fan of professional wrestling from a young age, Takeoff once convinced the other two to help him turn the backyard trampoline into a makeshift ring. 

The trio were all music fans, listening to everything from old funk and soul records their aunt kept around while also ingesting hip-hop greats from Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. to T.I. and Goodie Mob. It was Takeoff who spearheaded the trio’s earliest music-making efforts, downloading beats from SoundClick and making demos while Quavo and Offset were off playing sports. When the other two were done, they’d all get together and finish up the tracks. 

Eventually, the group’s music caught the attention of Atlanta great Gucci Mane, who introduced Migos to Kevin “Coach K” Lee and Pierre “P” Thomas, the founders of the label Quality Control. As Thomas recalled in a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone, “The music was crazy, but what made me really wanna go hard for them is that they packed all their clothes and moved into the studio — literally lived there, sleeping on reclining chairs and making music all day.”

In a statement from Quality Control to Rolling Stone, the label wrote: “It is with broken hearts and deep sadness that we mourn the loss of our beloved brother Kirsnick Khari Ball, known to the world as Takeoff. Senseless violence and a stray bullet has taken another life from this world and we are devastated.”

After dropping Juug Season in 2011 and No Label in 2012, Migos made their mark on the broader hip-hop world in 2013 with the release of “Versace” and their third mixtape (and first for QC) Y.R.N. Produced by Zaytoven, “Versace” was a perfect distillation of the Migos style — verses packed with clever triplet rhymes and a hook that turned the titular fashion brand into a mantra meant to stir up mosh pit mayhem.

In a July 2013 interview with The Fader — not long after Drake gave Migos his official stamp of approval with a remix of “Versace” — Takeoff explained how humor and energy were key components of the Migos formula: “You gotta have fun with a song, make somebody laugh. You gotta have character. A hard punchline can make you laugh, but you gotta know how to say it… You might just punch somebody listening to the music. It’s got so much energy.”

Migos continued apace over the next couple of years, releasing several more mixtapes, a proper debut album (2015’s Young Rich Nation), and scoring some Top 20 hip-hop hits with tracks like “Fright Night,” “Handsome and Wealthy,” and “Look at My Dab.” But the group’s crowning moment didn’t come until 2016 when they partnered with producer Metro Boomin and Lil Uzi Vert for “Bad and Boujee.” Takeoff, however, famously didn’t rap on “Bad and Boujee,” essentially ceding his verse to Lil Uzi Vert on the five-and-a-half-minute song.

But the MC didn’t exactly take kindly to the harsher implication that he was “left off” the track or some of the jokes that came with it. When DJ Akademiks asked about it during an infamous interview at the 2017 BET Awards, Takeoff retorted, “I ain’t left off ‘Bad and Boujee,’ you think I’m left off ‘Bad and Boujee.’ … Do it look like I’m left off ‘Bad and Boujee?’” Immediately after, co-host Joe Budden said they had to end the interview, dropped his mic, and left, leading to a brief scuffle. 

“Bad and Boujee” wasn’t an immediate hit upon its release in October 2016, but a steady stream of viral buzz propelled its rise, and it finally reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in January 2017. That same month, Migos released their second album, Culture, which debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200, and spawned two additional successful singles, “T-Shirt” and “Slippery.”

“Bad and Boujee” and Culture were both nominated for Grammys, and even though they lost, Migos had still cemented their status as one of music’s most influential acts, and bona fide pop stars (they were even dropping songs with Katy Perry). The trio recorded their next album, Culture II, while touring the world, notching hits along the way like “MotorSport,” with Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, “Stir Fry,” and “Walk It Talk It,” with Drake. 

“It’s still trap,” Takeoff told Rolling Stone in a 2018 cover story, describing how the group had begun tweaking their sound around this time. “We got a little funkier. It’s not all the way funk. There’s still a Migos vibe.”

Culture II dropped in January 2018, hit Number One on the Billboard 200, and was ultimately certified two times platinum by the RIAA (outdoing Culture, which was only certified once). Despite the album’s huge success, the record marked a bit of a pivot point for the group: Offset had released an album with 21 Savage and Metro Boomin in 2017, while in October 2018, Quavo release his solo debut, with Takeoff following a month later with his first solo project, The Last Rocket

Over the next few years, Migos’ pace slowed, and it wasn’t until 2021 that they released the long-awaited third installment of their Culture trilogy. Though the album was generally well-received and very successful (peaking at Number Two on the Billboard 200), Culture III didn’t really seem to mark a grand return. Rather, it carried a more end-of-an-era air.

By early 2022, rumors of tension and a possible split were swirling, especially as Quavo and Takeoff began releasing music as a pair (using the names Unc and Phew), and Offset sued Quality Control Music over the ownership of his solo recordings. In an interview with Rolling Stone just last month — to mark the release of Quavo and Takeoff’s collaborative album, Only Built for Infinity Links — Quavo and Takeoff stressed the group was still intact, but on an indefinite hiatus. 

During that interview, Takeoff was his characteristically quiet self, giving one of his most verbose answers after being asked how long he and Quavo had been recording songs for the album. “We always record. We in the studio right now as we speak. We got the project wrapped up and it’s ready to go 100% done, like my boy Khaled would say. But we always recording. Ain’t no deadline when we stop. We recording our way up through the whole time.”

Back in 2018, Offset captured Takeoff’s vibe and prowess as a musician, telling Rolling Stone, “He is outspoken with the people he fuck with, he love, but he quiet to everyone else. He analyze a lot, that’s why I think his raps be so strong. Takeoff got some strong shit. He’s just powerful.”

One of Migos’ managers, REL, shared a telling story, too, about how they all got pulled over by the police when Takeoff was about 14. When the police officer asked Takeoff what his job said, he replied, “I’m a rapper.”

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