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Rapper Drakeo the Ruler fatally stabbed at L.A. music festival

The Once Upon a Time in LA hip-hop festival was a single-day event organized and headlined by Snoop Dogg.
A view of the stage during the Once Upon a Time in LA Music Festival on Dec. 18, 2021 in Los Angeles.
A view of the stage during the Once Upon a Time in LA Music Festival in Los Angeles on Saturday.Scott Dudelson / Getty Images

Rapper Drakeo the Ruler died after he was stabbed Saturday night at the Once Upon a Time in LA music festival, his spokesman confirmed Sunday.

An unidentified victim was wounded in a fight that broke out behind the event's main stage at Banc of California Stadium, in state-run Exposition Park, the California Highway Patrol said in a statement Sunday. The festival’s organizers described the situation in an email Saturday night: "There was an altercation in the roadway backstage.” 

The CHP, which has jurisdiction over the park, said, "During the altercation, one man was severely injured by a suspect wielding an edged weapon."

The victim was hospitalized. No other injuries, and no arrests have been reported.

Neither the CHP or the Los Angeles Police Department, which also responded, identified the victim as Drakeo the Ruler or said he had died, but performer's spokesman, Scott Jawson, confirmed it by phone Sunday.

He said a statement with input from Drakeo's loved ones was probably forthcoming.

The 28-year-old artist, whose real name is Darrell Caldwell, grew up not far from the venue, in a massive swath of the city generally known as South L.A. He was scheduled to perform on one of the event's three stages at 8:30 p.m.

The 11 a.m. to roughly 11 p.m. festival was apparently behind schedule. The violence erupted at 8:36, the CHP said.

The LAPD tweeted late Saturday that the event "concluded early" following an "incident."

Rapper Snoop Dogg was billed as one of the event’s three promoters, along side Live Nation and Bobby Dee presents. Snoop Dogg assumed the role of curator, and the inaugural festival took place in his hometown of Long Beach, with the title Once Upon a Time in the LBC, in 2019.

The Saturday event billed Snoop Dogg among scheduled headliners that also included YG, Ice Cube, 50 Cent, The Game, Too Short, Three 6 Mafia, and a few dozen other artists.

Following Drakeo’s passing, the phrase “RIP Drakeo” began trending Sunday on Twitter.

Artists and organizers decided not to perform the remaining sets “out of respect for those involved and in coordination with local authorities," organizers said. Attendees were asked to leave.

Snoop Dogg said on Instagram that he was in his dressing room when he heard about the violence and "chose to immediately leave." (The rapper was acquitted of murder in 1996 after his bodyguard killed a gang member in what the shooter said was an act of self-defense).

"I'm saddened by the events that took place last night at the Once Upon a Time in L.A. festival," the rapper said. "My condolences go out to the family and loved ones of Drakeo."

He said he wanted an uplifting event. "I was there to spread positive vibes only to my city of L.A.," he said.

Jeff Weiss, editor-in-chief of The LAnd magazine, championed Drakeo in his influential hip-hop coverage as a crucial, new voice. The hip-hop star officially joined the world of recorded music with his debut collection in 2015.

Early Sunday he described the rapper as "the greatest West Coast artist of a generation, a legend who invented a new rap language of slippery cadences, nervous rhythms, and psychedelic slang, who beat life twice only to suffer the most tragic fate conceivable. The Ruler, once, always, and forever."

The Los Angeles coroner's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A hold on public information from the coroner regarding the victim's death could be requested by investigators seeking to protect the integrity of the case.

Medical examiners on Dec. 16 released a single cause of death last week for all 10 people who died during the Astroworld music festival in Houston on Nov. 5: Compression asphyxia, which essentially means the air was squeezed out of them in a shocking amount of time, likely as a result of an unstoppable wave of humanity, experts have said.

The event, curated by rapper Travis Scott, was also promoted by Beverly Hills-based Live Nation, which bills itself as the world's largest concert organizer.

The victims in Houston died in what has been described as a crowd surge that also injured 300 people, 25 of whom were hospitalized. The youngest fatality was 9-year-old Ezra Blount.