Rapper Dolla Struggled For Hip-Hop Success

Murder Charge Filed In Dolla's Killing
Rapper Dolla, born Roderick Anthony Burton II, was shot and killed while waiting in the valet area of the Beverly Center mall in Los Angeles on Monday (May 18). He was 21.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the up-and-coming rapper, who signed to Akon's Konvict Muzik label in 2007, had flown to Los Angeles that very morning to continue work on his oft-delayed solo debut, "A Dolla And A Dream," which had been slated for a summer release. He went to the Beverly Center to shop, his publicist Sue Vannasing told the newspaper. After the shooting, Burton was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center a few blocks from the mall, where he died, police said.

According to the Times, the LAPD has not announced a motive for the attack or identified any official suspects, although detectives are questioning a woman they detained at the scene and a man who allegedly fled in a silver Mercedes SUV after he was detained while approaching the ticketing area at the Los Angeles International Airport armed with a gun.

TMZ reports police arrested a man identified as 23-year-old Aubrey Berry at LAX after authorities issued an alert that the suspect may be headed for the airport. The airport police reportedly spotted a man who matched the description of the assailant sitting in the lobby of one of the terminals. When police approached him, Berry said he knew why they were there, raised his hands and told them he had a 9 MM gun in his waistband.

The shooting took place at around 3:10 P.M., and according to the Times, sent shoppers and diners -- who said they heard four to five shots rang out -- diving for cover. “Dolla was part of the Konvict Entertainment family and an incredible artist. This is a senseless crime and the industry has lost a real talent. Our heart goes out to his family, friends, and fans,” Akon said via a statement. “It’s a terrible tragedy," T-Pain added. "My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

As first reported on Billboard.com last year, Dolla lived through his share of hardships in his short life. Born in Chicago in 1988 as a twin, Dolla's sibling died due to an enlarged heart. At the age of five, after relocating to Los Angeles, his father committed suicide in front of him. As early as age ten, Dolla was dealing drugs in attempt to help make ends meet at home. In 2006, his sister was sentenced to jail following an altercation with police, leaving Dolla and his mother to care for his young niece and nephew. In 2007, Dolla was shot during an attempted robbery.

All the while, Dolla had dreams of leaving the hard knock life behind and becoming a famous rapper. At age 12, he formed a rap group called Da Razkals Cru, who caught the attention of Missy Elliott and Sean "Diddy" Combs, later becoming a model for the latter's Sean John Clothing line.

By 2001, the group signed a deal with Elektra Records, where Dolla met the singer/producer Akon. Unfortunately, Elektra folded a few years later and the group was released from their contract in 2003. By then, Akon had already formed his Konvict Muzik imprint and was looking to expand, and so he signed a joint venture with Dolla's The Gang Entertainment. Shortly after, Dolla was signed as a solo artist to Jive Records via Konvict.

His first single, "Who The Fuck Is That," featuring T-Pain and Tay Dizm, peaked on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart at No. 42 early 2008.

His promotional single, "Feeling Myself," which was slated to appear on "A Dolla And A Dream" as well, was featured on the soundtrack to the 2006 dance movie, "Step Up."

Other Dolla releases include "I'm Fucked Up," "Make A Toast," which reached No. 25 on the Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart, "Heartbreak Collision" and "Like This," featuring Akon.

"A Dolla And A Dream" was a reflection of Dolla's struggles. On the intro to the album, aside from rapping about his father's death, selling drugs, his sister's incarceration and being shot, he also rhymes about dropping out of high school and getting his GED. On "Gon' Be Alright," he addresses teen pregnancy and the rising number of AIDS-infected inner city-dwellers, and "1125," which references Dolla's birth date, is about his twin sister.

So far, "A Dolla And A Dream" featured production from Jazze Pha, Polow Da Don and Akon, among others. Aside from T-Pain and Tay Dizm, the set featured no guest appearances to date. "I want everybody to know me and who I am. I want them to know my story and about my struggles," Dolla told Billboard.

On his myspace (http://www.myspace.com/dolla), Dolla's fans have already posted comments wishing he rest in peace and telling him how much he will be missed. On a video on the page, Dolla appears rhyming the lyrics, "I'm so easy to love but even harder to hate / n*ggas wanna see me die and take a fall from grace / but I know the short cuts to stay ahead of the race."

Dolla's death comes just two months and nine days after the twelve year anniversary of the still-unsolved death of Notorious B.I.G., who was shot to death just two miles from the site of Dolla's death.

It is unclear if the label still plans on releasing "A Dolla And A Dream" this summer as scheduled, or at all.

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