Mortality in American Hip-Hop and Rap Recording Artists, 1987-2014

Med Probl Perform Art. 2015 Dec;30(4):211-6. doi: 10.21091/mppa.2015.4039.


Background: The deaths of American hip-hop and rap recording artists often receive considerable media attention. However, these artists' deaths have not been examined as a distinct group like the deaths of rock, classical, jazz, and pop music artists. This is a seminal epidemiological analysis on the deaths of an understudied group, American hip-hop and rap music recording artists.

Methods: Media reports were analyzed of the deaths of American hip-hop and rap music recording artists that occurred from January 1, 1987 to December 31, 2014. The decedents' age, sex, race, cause of death, stage names, and city and state of death were recorded for analysis.

Results: The most commonly reported cause of death was homicide. The 280 deaths were categorized as homicide (55%), unintentional injury (13%), cardiovascular (7%), undetermined/undisclosed (7%), cancer (6%), other (5%), suicide (4%), and infectious disease (3%). The mean reported age at death was 30 yrs (range 15-75) and the median was 29 yrs; 97% were male and 92% were black. All but one of the homicides were committed with firearms.

Conclusions: Homicide was the most commonly reported cause of death. Public health focus and guidance for hip-hop and rap recording artists should mirror that for African-American men and adolescent males ages 15-54 yrs, for whom the leading causes of death are homicide, unintentional injury, and heart disease. Given the preponderance of homicide deaths in this analysis, premature mortality reduction efforts should focus on violence prevention and conflict mitigation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death
  • Female
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Music*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality*
  • Young Adult