On Saturday night, just after Al Green finished serenading tens of thousands of fans at the Once Upon a Time in LA festival with classic love songs like “Let’s Stay Together” and “Love and Happiness”, rapper Drakeo the Ruler has been brazenly ambushed. behind the scenes and stabbed in the neck.
The incident occurred as Snoop Dogg was preparing to perform at the one-day event, a joint venture he co-promoted with live entertainment giant Live Nation and independent promoter Los Angeles-based Bobby Dee Presents. The latter is owned by Robert “Bobby Dee” Drieslein, a longtime business partner of Snoop Dogg.
The festival, held on the grounds of the Banc of California Stadium and Exhibition Park and featuring performances by Game, Cypress Hill, Ice Cube and dozens of other R&B, funk and hip-hop artists from the 1970s, was closed shortly after.
Drakeo, real name Darrell Caldwell, 28, later died of his injuries. “The detectives are still trying to figure things out,” LAPD spokesman officer Luis Garcia said on Sunday. California Highway Patrol is the current investigative agency. No arrests were made.
The murder of Drakeo, an acclaimed street-oriented lyricist who had recently released his debut album after a series of scorching mixtapes, prompted questions about festival security personnel, which included local rap artists with backgrounds of gang affiliation.
In 2019, Drakeo was acquitted after being charged with the murder of Davion Gregory, a member of a gang affiliated with the Inglewood Family Gangster Bloods. LA County prosecutors have sought to retry Caldwell on charges of conspiracy to murder. The second case ended with a deal that saw Drakeo plead guilty to shooting from a motor vehicle and being released on time. He was also sentenced to five years’ probation.
“Drakeo entered the lion’s den,” said a talented organizer at the event, who declined to be named for security reasons.
Video of the assault shows a swarm of people involved in the melee, with many passers-by watching from the perimeter. After Drakeo falls to the ground, half a dozen young men continue to attack him.
An eyewitness to the fight said the security response was surprisingly slow. The eyewitness said he saw “no security at a distance near there.” Security would have “had plenty of time to interrupt the fighting, but maybe there was a guard trying to help,” said the person, who asked not to be identified so that he could talk freely about what was happening. ‘he saw.
âIf you bring security, you expect it to be enough,â said a member of the Drakeo camp. The person noted that on Saturday Drakeo had his own safety head in tow, but event staff prevented him from bringing his entire team backstage. An eyewitness confirmed this account.
Drakeo’s mother, Darrylene Corniel, described her son’s death in an interview with Rolling Stone on Monday. âHe was shot in the neck. I saw him when I went to the hospital. They said it was homicide so I couldn’t hug him or kiss him or anything like that. I must have looked at him through a window.
She added, âI want justice for my son. And I believe justice will be served.
Corniel said she plans to press charges but did not specify against whom.
Before the end of the evening, Live Nation had released a statement: âThere was a backstage altercation on the pavement. Out of respect for those involved and in coordination with local authorities, the artists and organizers decided not to move forward with the remaining sets, so the festival ended an hour earlier.
Drakeo’s murder is the second tragedy to occur at a Live Nation sponsored event in less than two months. On November 5, 10 people died and hundreds were injured at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston after being trapped in a wave of crowds. Astroworld and Once Upon a Time in LA were joint ventures between Live Nation, local artists and promoters; Astroworld with Travis Scott and Scoremore Shows, and Once Upon a Time in LA with Snoop Dogg and Bobby Dee Productions.
In a statement posted on Instagram the next day, Snoop Dogg wrote that he was “saddened by the events that unfolded last night” at the festival and offered his condolences to Drakeo’s family and friends. He added, âI’m not with anything negative and as one of the many artists I was there to provide positive vibes only to my hometown of LA. Last night I was in my dressing room when I was informed of the incident and chose to leave the festival grounds immediately. He concluded the note with a blessing in all caps: “I PRAY FOR PEACE IN HIP HOP.”
Robert “Smoov” Bryant, Music Director, Tour Promoter and Consultant who has worked with artists such as Digital Underground, DMX and YG, was behind the main stage during the sets of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and the Game, and maintains that security was frequent.
âSome had USC equipment, you had event security, artist security, and you had LAPD officers stationed in that area,â said Bryant. “I felt very safe.”
Drakeo had performed without incident the previous weekend in San Bernardino as part of the Rolling Loud Festival. It was one of his first big festivals since his release from prison in November 2020.
He was scheduled to perform on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. on the G-Unit stage, one of the three stages offering music at the festival. But the event was overdue and Drakeo was still backstage on the main stage of Once Upon a Time as Green’s set ended.
The festival organizer recalled seeing many attendees in the VIP area wearing red clothes as a potential sign of their blood affiliation. The lack of backstage security, he said, was of concern.
“I probably saw at most two armed individuals, and they were at the VIP entrance telling people to turn away because there were too many people to enter,” he said.
Randy Phillips, the former general manager of AEG Live who produced Kanye West’s groundbreaking December 9 concert with Drake at the LA Coliseum – but who was not involved with Once Upon a Time in LA – says the issues of security for its event required a conversation with law enforcement at all levels. Prior to this concert, held at the same complex as Once Upon a Time, the Phillips team “had at least five three-hour meetings with all stakeholders of the event, including the venue, their normal security, California Highway Patrol, the LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department.
Phillips, who was unaware of security plans for Once Upon a Time in LA, added that responsibility for production on the pitch, including security plans, depends on Live Nation’s agreement with Snoop. Dogg and Bobby Dee Productions. âLive Nation hasn’t created some of these festivals that they’ve subscribed to,â Phillips said. âA lot of it depends on who is actually producing the concert. Is it Live Nation proper or is it Live Nation and a joint venture with another promoter? “
Representatives for Live Nation and Bobby Dee Productions did not respond to requests for comment.
Once Upon a Time in LA was created by Drieslein under his banner Bobby Dee Presents and Jeff Shuman, a former talent buyer for Goldenvoice who left the company in July for Live Nation. According to patent records, Drieslein owns the trademark for Once Upon a Time in LA and Once Upon a Time in LBC. Drieslein also runs Uncle Snoop’s Army, an arts agency that represents many of the festival’s featured artists, including Ice Cube, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Warren G, B-Real, OT Genesis, and Brenton Wood.
In 2017, Drieslein and Shuman started hosting Summertime in LBC at the Queen Mary Events Center in Long Beach. It was renamed Once Upon a Time in LA in 2019 after a deal with Long Beach hip-hop group Dove Shack, who claimed infringement due to the festival’s use of its song title in 1995 hit of the same name.
Shuman has overseen several large festivals in smaller markets, most notably at the Santa Ana Observatory, where he was previously a talent buyer. While there, he was the originator of the ambitious Beach Goth, Burgerama and Soulquarius festivals of the 2010s, each of which, despite their renowned lineups, have been criticized in the cover and on social media for issues like as overcrowding and lack of security. Shuman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Steve Dixon, who oversaw production of the West concert on the Phillips team, says planning every aspect of such events can only get you so far.
“When there is a dirty deed to be done,” he said, “there is little you can spend to prevent it.”