December 1, 2022

When the Migos first dropped, I was struggling.

Y’all were too, but I ain’t gone tell nobody. I really couldn’t tell who was who. It was kind of confusing. Like, you could tell it was three people, but as to who was who? No fcking clue. But as my ears started to become more mature to that signature sound, I started to know. The name at the beginning was no longer an introduction.

It became a preview. A preview to what would happen next.

I knew who Quavo was early on. And due to his popularity, his introduction wasn’t needed with the same frequency as the other two. The master of the hooks usually made their songs popular. The club recites Quavo’s part the most because it’s the most familiar.

Then there’s Offset. He occupies both worlds. Over the years, on multiple projects and features, he’s left us with some impressive verses. “That mf Offset snapped,” you would text the group, while attaching whatever song you were referencing at the time. Couple his flow with a good ear and pen for catchy hooks, you have Offset. But maybe I’m bias with this take. He’s probably my personal favorite.

Then there was Takeoff. “TAKEOFF!”

The group member a lot of us didn’t realized we loved so much. The quietest ones are sometimes the hardest to initially embrace, even if a lot of us can personally relate to just simply minding one’s own gawd damn business. Out of the three, here was the most unassuming one, on the surface. On the surface, Takeoff seemed the polar opposite of his moniker.

He seemed grounded. Almost to a fault.

Then we started paying attention, some before others. But we started to understand. We started to understand how the quiet, unassuming member of one of our favorite hip hop groups could literally takeoff on any verse. His flow would find the beat, catch it, and ride off with it to the sunset. And the wordplay was just as elite. His use of metaphors; his cadence; his delivery; the subtle injection of adlibs.

Hol’ up..IS TAKEOFF THE BEST RAPPER OUT OF THE GROUP?!?

The progression of this rhetorical question went from only being asked in the most nuanced corners of barbershops and text threads, to an opinion shared among the majority of the hip hop populace. And even as this opinion grew in popularity, Takeoff stayed just as unassuming.

That’s what made dude special. He still stayed the quietest in the room. The listener. Only speaking or engaging when he had something to say. Those are the kind of people we gravitate to once we get to know them. The people who you have to listen to when they talk, because what they say or what they gesture is probably important. It’s almost like they know their words are finite, so they don’t waste words or actions.

Takeoff was being himself, even in the precious seconds before his death. He was killed while actively staying away from the commotion and chaos. I would’ve been Takeoff. A lot of us would’ve been Takeoff. Being close enough to make sure the family is ok, but far enough to make sure my peace of mind is in tact.

He was killed anyway.

He was killed because, well, let me stop. I think we’ve said enough on the reasons.

Fuck it, let me add one more. He was killed because the access to guns in this country are easy. Too easy for me. Maybe not easy enough for you. Or maybe just right for you. But too easy for me. And the people who have access to guns don’t have access to gun literacy, gun training, conflict resolution training, nor common sense.

Or at least we act like we don’t have access to trainings and common sense.

It confuses me how we can have access to such an absolute power. An absolute power that can end a life, either mistakenly or on purpose. And we have access to this power, regardless of trainings; We have access to this power, regardless of sobriety; We have access to this power, regardless of common sense and emotional intelligence.

Moments before he passed, Takeoff was doing what we loved about Takeoff.

He did what he probably always does. Which was being unassuming in a place he probably shouldn’t be in. And he probably knew he shouldn’t be there. But his lifestyle, unfortunately, put him in a lot of compromising positions, even while he actively tried to mitigate potential danger.

He played it by the book. Like most of us play it by the book. And most of us would’ve played it by the book if we were in the same situation Takeoff was in before he was killed. And he was killed anyway. Because this society and her guns begets a culture that is causing too many of us to mourn souls who we shouldn’t be mourning.

Leslie McLemore writes about a lot of different shit for Black With No Chaser. He is also the Takeaway Kang, the greatest baby father to the dopest babymomma, and the father of two beautiful girls, one of which gets on every nerve he has. The other one is sweet…sometimes. So, you know, balance. Sort of.

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