“Fell in love with the streets” – Adolph Robert Thornton Jr.

The streets didn’t love Young Dolph back. In fact I consider what happened to Mr. Thornton in 2021 one of the most twisted “no love” hip-hop murders in memory — Young Dolph was gunned down at a cookie shop. His assailants took his passion for a local business and weaponized it against him, killing him and hurting them at the same time. I understand Dolph had his enemies in Memphis (this wasn’t the first time he had been shot, or even shot at) but that’s absolutely zero love from anybody in those streets on that block. It unintentionally became an object lesson for young artists — no matter how much you love the streets, they don’t love you.

“Too many chains on my neck
and there’s too many bitches that’s all on my jock”

Paper Route Frank” doesn’t change the formula that made Young Dolph a star, but on this posthumous release we see why it haunted him. Many rappers revel in blurring the line between fiction and reality. The result is that a certain segment of the audience wants to take what those rappers have. It doesn’t matter if the whip is rented and the chains are loaned out — if it looks like flaunting then it must be flaunting for real. I’m not saying Dolph didn’t have it like that to do it for real, I’m saying it doesn’t matter when perception becomes larger than reality. Success breeds envy, and if they can’t take his wealth they can take something more valuable — his life.

“Took my bitch overseas and jumped on a boat
What the fuck is ten stacks? I spent that on a coat”

When Dolph says “What I do for fun? Hmm – shit on rappers” on “Smoke My Weed” there’s a not at all subtle message there about why he’s flaunting. Young Dolph wants the listeners to know he’s not intending to make you personally mad. Dolph is trying to make other rappers mad. He wanted them to know he was better than them. It’s possible one of Dolph’s assailants was a local Memphis rapper… so I guess it worked. It’s supposed to be entertaining to see rap artists boast and taunt other rappers, but when the responses come with bullets instead of bars, it’s not fun for anyone. I’m old enough to remember rappers in the 1980’s and 90’s complaining that people used to settle their beefs with their hands, now they settle them with guns. Did that change anything though? No. It has only gotten worse.

If you look at “Paper Route Frank” on YouTube, you’re struck by the fact that every song is a “visualizer” and not a “video.” Dead people can’t shoot videos. You’re also struck by the fact that Dolph wanted to “Get Away” before this unfortunate turn of events. “Living in hell right here on Earth/All I do is get high and work.” That doesn’t like sound fun does it? Dolph had even teased retiring from the rap game in interviews before his demise. I’m not sure the jealousy and envy would have gone away even if he had. Economic disenfranchisement is the breeding ground for anger, and the Memphis region seems to have more than its fair share of both inequality and rage. Too many young black men and women are dying there and not just over this rap shit.

I’m personally haunted by something I wrote about Dolph over five years ago: “Dolph has a great story, he just needs to tell it more often and not focus so much on showing off.” I enjoyed Young Dolph’s ability to craft compelling narratives, and his slow syrupy drawl was pleasant to the ear. More than anything though I need to tell myself more than I need to tell anybody reading this review one thing — Dolph shouldn’t be dead for flashing his bread. As a society and as a rap community we all need to be slower to get angry and quicker to forgive those who anger us. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind, and a gun for a gun leaves us with with less rappers year after year. Being an entertainer is not worth dying for, and wanting what you don’t have isn’t worth killing for. We also need to address the poverty that breeds anger though… but I’m just a writer with a pen so what do I know? If I knew how to change it Young Dolph would still be with us.