In 2012, less than a year before they inked their deal with Jeezy’s CTE World/Atlantic Records, Doughboyz Cashout released their debut album Free Roc. From “Da Mob” to “Boss Yo Life Up” to “Get Money Stay Humble” and “Y Dey Hate Me,” they provided the world with an HD view of life through the eyes of Midwest hustlers-turned-rappers on the project.
To me, though, it wasn’t solely the album’s music that made it special, rather the fact it was a dedication to founding member Doughboy Roc (who was incarcerated at the time). Roc’s mugshot, in which he appeared somewhat emotionless, graced the album’s cover; an over-the-phone verse from Roc served as the intro; and the last song, “Life,” was Roc’s written reflection of his life leading up to prison. Before the song ends, you can hear him say, “I get sentenced in a couple days…I’m putting it in God’s hands, though.”
Approximately five years after Free Roc dropped, Dougboyz found themselves showing their love and support for their comrade once again. But this time it wasn’t because he was locked up.
On the afternoon of Oct. 9, 2017, Roc was shot multiple times while sitting in his car on Detroit’s West Side — the same side of the city that molded him and his peers into trendsetters, prosperous hustlers and talented artists. Only 29 years old at the time, he was pronounced dead on the scene.
I’ll never forget when I received the news of Roc’s passing. I was being interviewed over the phone by HipHopDx.Com for a job opportunity they had in Atlanta. We were discussing some of the people I’d recently interviewed for A Humble Soul, my favorite news outlets, as well as who I was listening to at the moment. I told them that I was vibing to a lot of Detroit artists and started to name different people. Right after I said Doughboyz Cashout, they asked me if I’d heard about Roc?
“Yeah, you’re talking about the album he recently dropped, Roc vs. Balboa? That’s one of the projects I’ve been listening to the past few weeks.”
“No, did you hear about his death? He was shot and killed. We just posted something on our site about it.”
I was driving home at the time; the news caught me off guard. I lost focus for a second and ended up missing my exit. The rest of the conversation we had is kind of blurry, but I can still remember as clear as day receiving the news. I didn’t want to believe it was true.
In Roc’s music, he was open about being a loyal and good-hearted person, but also someone torn between a rap career and the streets. This tends to be the scenario for a lot of artists who haven’t received their big break. So many of them, sadly, end up losing their lives, throwing in the towel on their career or going away for extended vacations behind prison walls.
Although I didn’t know him personally, I still felt a connection to Roc through his music. I admired his infatuation with loyalty, unwavering love for his ‘hood Brightmoor and commitment to being an all-around stand-up guy. On top of that, he was an unapologetic/dope lyricist who spoke from the heart in his songs.
Prior to his death, it seemed like Roc was catching his second wind. He’d dropped Loyalty is Everything with BYLUG-affiliate June Taylor in October 2016, was buzzing from his appearance on Payroll’s “This is How We Move It,” and his third solo Roc vs. Balboa (released less than a month before his death) was arguably his best work up to that point.
Though he didn’t hide his ties to the streets, Roc’s murder surprised and hurt a lot of people. Doughboyz member HBK penned a dedication to his BYLUG brother on Sweet Chin Muzik, Dre Armany did the same on High Times. Payroll and other members of the camp have also kept Roc’s name alive in their songs and social media posts — coining October as “Roctober” in honor of his life and legacy.
A month after Roc’s tragic death, Douhboy Freddy K opened up to me about how it impacted the group and entire city of Detroit:
“That shook the whole city up. RIP Roc. I still ain’t got over it. I ain’t never seeing no shit like it. This shit is crazy. I really can’t explain it. I’m kind of lost for words. I still can’t believe he’s gone, but it’s something we gonna have to deal with as a family, as a group, as a squad, as a team. Just like I said earlier, it’s no instruction manual on this shit. It’s no playbook, so we just deal with it a day at a time. He’s missed, and he will be missed forever. It ain’t gonna be no replacement. Long live Roc.”
Two years after his passing, Roc’s music continues to touch people around the world — me being one of them. It’s sad to see his life ended so tragically, but I know his legacy will live on forever.
Much love to the Mayor of the Mo.