The rapper known as Takeoff, 28, of the chart-topping Atlanta rap trio Migos, was tragically shot and killed overnight at a Houston bowling alley on November 1st.
Quavo, another member of Migos, was with Takeoff at the time of the shooting.
Drew Findling, a lawyer for Takeoff and confidant to many rap stars, called the news of his death “a devastating loss, particularly for Atlanta.”
“When you’re around Takeoff, there’s a sense of peacefulness about his aura,” Mr. Findling said. “He listens to you, he looks at you, he’s more focused on what you have to say than what he has to say. The world was starting to learn about Takeoff. It was his time to shine.”
Takeoff, a subtle rap technician whose childhood obsession with hip-hop inspired the group as young teenagers in the Atlanta suburbs, was a fan favorite from the trio, even as he dodged celebrity and maintained almost no public profile.
Before becoming one of the biggest rap acts of the last decade — and ushering in a new period of dominance for Atlanta music in the streaming era — Migos was founded as a family bedroom act northeast of the city, in Gwinnett County, which Migos came to brand as the “Nawfside.”
After gaining local buzz and tastemaker attention with the track “Bando,” and releasing its first independent mixtape as Migos, “Juug Season,” in 2011, the trio rose to national prominence with the single “Versace” in 2013. The remix, though never commercially released, featured an appearance by Drake, who mimicked the group’s signature style of rapid-fire, stuttering raps, known as a triplet flow, in which three syllables are piled rhythmically onto one beat to hypnotic effect.
Pairing a punchy rap style with sticky, repetitive hooks — like Takeoff’s defining choruses on songs like “Fight Night” and “T-Shirt” — Migos’s trademark delivery would go on to become a go-to mode for popular music throughout the 2010s, as utilized by artists including Travis Scott and Ariana Grande.
In late 2016 and early 2017, the group soared to international fame thanks to “Bad and Boujee,” a track featuring Lil Uzi Vert — but not Takeoff, who was absent from the song — that spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In what may be Takeoff’s defining moment outside of the recording studio, he was once asked in a red-carpet interview about being left off the track, drawing the visible ire of the entire group.
“Do it look like I’m left off ‘Bad and Boujee’?” Takeoff responds, referring to sharing the financial windfall and fame with Quavo and Offset.
The track became one of the first megahits of the streaming era and has been streamed more than 1.5 billion times in the United States alone. The group’s subsequent album, “Culture,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart and earned Migos one of its two Grammy nominations.
In an interview with The New York Times ahead of the release of “Culture,” Takeoff compared the moment to Christmas Eve. “You just know that everything you asked for is going to be there up under that Christmas tree,” he said, his often-downcast eyes lighting up. “It’s our time now.”
In the years since, Migos has released two sequels to “Culture,” and singles including “MotorSport,” “I Get the Bag” and “Walk It Talk It,” also with Drake. Takeoff’s solo album, “The Last Rocket,” came out in 2018, and debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in 2018. Last month, Takeoff and Quavo — without the third Migos member, Offset — released the album, “Only Built for Infinity Links,” which went to No. 7.
Takeoff, whose real name is Kirsnick Khari Ball, was born on June 18, 1994, and grew up in Lawrenceville, Ga. He “always wanted to rap,” he told The Fader, a music magazine, in a 2013 interview, and found his group mates close to home: Takeoff and Quavo, his uncle, were raised by Quavo’s mother, Edna, a hairstylist. She is frequently shouted out in Migos songs as “Mama!”
The first of the group to fall hard for rap music while the others played football, Takeoff soaked up music online and bought at the flea market, particularly Southern rappers like Gucci Mane, T.I., Lil Wayne and his early group the Hot Boys, which provided a blueprint for Migos’s later success.
As a duo initially called Polo Club, Takeoff and Quavo began performing music in their teens at the local skating rink, and released a mixtape when Takeoff was still middle-school age. Offset began spending time at Edna’s house and considered Takeoff and Quavo his cousins. Together, they started to map out a sound — repeated words, pummeling background ad-libs — that was catchy and distinctive.
The trio came to the notice of the local executives Pierre Thomas (known as P) and Kevin Lee (Coach K), who founded a label, Quality Control, around the trio in 2013. Already, Migos had fallen under the tutelage of the local rapper and talent scout Gucci Mane, who had heard the group’s early track “Bando,” and signed them to a cash deal.
With Gucci Mane in prison, P and Coach K became the group’s primary boosters. Musically, it was Takeoff who first drew P’s attention with his bouncy, melodic triplet raps that the executive said reminded him of the ‘90s group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.
“The music was crazy,” P later said, “but what made me really want to 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.”
Describing Migos’s approach to music, Takeoff said the group would make about “seven songs a day,” spending no more than 15 minutes on each track. Working on a song for any longer “kills the vibe,” Takeoff said. “You gotta have fun with a song, make somebody laugh,” he added. “You gotta have character.”