Lil Keed, a budding, melodic rapper from Atlanta with a delicate voice that he often stretched into a helium-high, Auto-Tuned falsetto, died Friday in Los Angeles. He was 24.
The musician’s death was confirmed Saturday by a representative for his record label, 300 Entertainment, who did not specify a cause. Lil Keed had been scheduled to perform at a music festival Saturday night in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Born Raqhid Jevon Render on March 16, 1998, Lil Keed hailed from the neighborhood known as Cleveland Avenue, for its main thoroughfare, where southwest Atlanta meets the suburb of East Point in Fulton County. He chronicled his turbulent upbringing there, surrounded by poverty, drugs and violence, in the three-part mixtape series “Trapped on Cleveland.” Its final installment was released in 2020.
“I dig deep into my story and let everybody see what I went through, how I came up, and give them an insight on my life,” he said in an interview with Complex at the time.
In 2018, Lil Keed signed to 300 and Young Stoner Life Records under the tutelage of his mentor and melodic rapper Young Thug. This past week, Young Thug and 27 others, including numerous rappers from the label, were charged in a major racketeering indictment handed down by a grand jury in Fulton County. The indictment alleged that YSL was a criminal street gang responsible for killings, robberies, drug dealing and more.
Lil Keed, who was not charged, responded in a graphic posted to social media that read: “YSL is a family, YSL is a label, YSL is a way of life, YSL is a lifestyle, YSL is not a gang.”
In 2020, Lil Keed was named to XXL’s annual Freshman Class issue, a prominent launchpad for rappers, appearing on the magazine’s cover alongside acts like Jack Harlow and Fivio Foreign. The year before, his breakout single, “Nameless,” a raunchy number with a singsong stickiness that became a regional radio hit and streaming success, had been certified gold. Having released seven full-length projects in two years, Lil Keed worked widely with artists from his city and beyond, including Lil Yachty, Gunna, Future, Lil Uzi Vert and Roddy Ricch.
Lil Keed’s brother and frequent collaborator, rapper Lil Gotit, reacted to his death Friday night on Instagram. “I did all my cries,” he wrote. “I know what u want me to do and that’s go hard for Mama Daddy Our Brothers.” Lil Keed is also survived by his daughter, Naychur, and his girlfriend, known as Quana Bandz. “What am I supposed to tell Naychur? What am I gone tell our new baby?” she posted.
Confident and winning, with a wide smile and an open-minded eagerness, Lil Keed was frank about his ambition to grow beyond the often grim Southern street rap tales that first got him noticed. “I wanna be a megastar,” he said to XXL. “I don’t wanna be no superstar. I wanna be a megastar.”
Through his unlikely friendship with advertising executive and motivational guru Gary Vaynerchuk, whom Lil Keed name-dropped in song, the rapper nearly appeared in a 2019 Super Bowl commercial for Planters with Mr. Peanut and Alex Rodriguez. However, the role fell through. At a studio summit later that year, Vaynerchuk encouraged Lil Keed to expand his presence on TikTok to reach new audiences.
“I’mma do this,” Lil Keed said, energized by the advice. “And I’ll be like, he told me.”
His new music was starting to reflect that, Lil Keed said. “Back then, I was talking about stuff like typical rappers: shooting, killing,” he told Complex of his beginnings, “because that’s what everybody wanted to hear.”
He continued, “I was just talking about the stuff that happened in the streets and stuff around me. Now that I done grew from all that and I done moved myself out of that situation, I’m letting folks know why I was so trapped on Cleveland, as far as me going to the ’hood every day and all the shootouts. I just had to move myself out of the situation to better myself and my family.”