Hundreds of mourners gathered Tuesday to say goodbye to Drakeo the Ruler, the West Coast rap star fatally stabbed on Dec. 18.
Family, friends, and fans attended the funeral at the Greater Emmanuel Temple Church in Lynwood, a few miles east of the South Los Angeles community where the highly inventive MC — known for his breakout 2017 mixtape Cold Devil, and the Drake-assisted 2021 single “Talk to Me” — grew up.
“It really hit me last night. Reality is setting in. This is my baby,” Drakeo’s mother Darrylene Corniel told Rolling Stone as she greeted family outside the church. “My son had class, and I wanted him to go out with class.”
Inside the chapel, Drakeo’s younger brother, the rapper Ralfy The Plug, was seated in the front row. A gleaming $36,000 platinum coffin was surrounded by life-size images of the 28-year-old hip-hop prodigy.
“He was my role model. He made sure I knew the best of everything. He made me start rapping. He was getting so much money and made it look so easy,” Ralfy told Rolling Stone after his brother’s casket was interred in a wall at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills, the same cemetery where the brothers’ late friend and collaborator Ketchy the Great was laid to rest.
“He was just born with it,” Ralfy said of his brother’s unique flow. “Certain stuff you can’t fake. He made up his own style of music, ‘nervous music.’ It was like our own little genre. It’s like that kind of feeling when you’re riding around in a $100,000 car with felonies all around you.”
Drakeo was attacked and stabbed in the neck backstage at the Once Upon a Time in L.A. music festival held at the Banc of California Stadium with a bill that included Al Green, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and YG among other performers.
Born Darrell Caldwell, Drakeo’s career was just beginning to flourish. Following his acquittal in a murder case that had trapped him behind bars for three years, he released two full-length albums, and just last February he tapped Drake for the single “Talk to Me,” one of the many signs that Drakeo’s mainstream moment was on the horizon.
Detectives with the California Highway Patrol, the agency with jurisdiction over the area in Exposition Park where the murder took place, have been tight-lipped about their investigation.
Corniel told Rolling Stone shortly after the murder that her son had been “swamped” by a group of masked men backstage.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed Feb. 2 on behalf of Drakeo’s five-year-old son says the rapper died at the hands of “a violent mob of purported members of a Los Angeles-based Bloods gang.”
The paperwork faults the festival’s organizers and promoters for an alleged “utter lack of security” that left the rapper vulnerable in “one of the most dangerous areas in the greater Los Angeles region.”
Drakeo’s “ongoing public feud” with fellow festival rapper YG was listed as another reason the concert’s organizers should have afforded him greater protection, the paperwork stated.
“While there is no evidence to indicate that YG had anything to do with the events that would lead to Mr. Caldwell’s murder on the evening of December 18, 2021, it was clear that other members of the Bloods gang may take issue with him,” the filing read. “It was widely known that members of the Bloods gang were actively targeting Mr. Caldwell.”
Drakeo’s personal safety was a major issue after Los Angeles County prosecutors put him on trial for the 2016 shooting death of Davion “Red Bull” Gregory — a known member of the Inglewood Family Bloods — even though they knew he didn’t pull the trigger. Drakeo was acquitted of the murder in July 2019, but he later told his friend, the music writer Jeff Weiss, that he felt there was a gang-related bounty on his head, according to Weiss’ stunning account of Drakeo’s murder in Los Angeles Magazine.
Speaking to Rolling Stone a month before his murder, Drakeo reflected on how prosecutors used the lyrics from his 2016 song “Flex Freestyle” in a failed attempt to convince jurors he’d attended the warehouse party where Gregory was killed with malicious intent: to target a rival rapper, RJ. “I’m ridin’ around town with a tommy gun and a Jag / And you can disregard the yelling, RJ tied up in the back,” the lyrics state. It apparently didn’t matter to prosecutors that RJ wasn’t even at the party in question the night of the deadly shooting.
“I didn’t even think they could do that,” Drakeo said. “I heard about them doing it before, but it was just the way they were doing it. How they were using it against me. It didn’t make no sense. It was just crazy.”
After the service, a fleet of white Rolls Royces will carry Drakeo’s family to the cemetery. He will be laid to rest at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills, not far from his close friend and fellow Stinc Team rapper, Ketchy the Great, Corniel said.
This story will be updated throughout the afternoon.