Over the weekend, Alabama rapper Doe B was laid to rest in his hometown of Montgomery. A week earlier, he was killed in a nightclub shooting that also took the life of 21-year-old Troy University student Kimberle Johnson and 20-year-old Tim Hamilton. Two men have since been arrested and charged in connection with the shooting, which appears to have stemmed from longstanding bad blood between the alleged shooter, Jason McWilliams, and Doe B. Doe, birth name Glenn Thomas, was 22-years-old. He leaves behind two children, with a third on the way.
Doe B had begun to break out beyond “The Gump” off the success of “Let Me Find Out,” a song which first appeared on his 2012 sophomore mixtape Definition of a Trapper 2. With a sparse, slow-rolling bass line and an insanely catchy hook, the song was an exercise in a less-is-more philosophy. Its accompanying music video, which featured Doe driving through Montgomery in a Corvette convertible that could barely contain his oversized frame, was equally enthralling if for no other reason than that of Doe’s presence alone. Tall. Big. Eyepatch. He was a sight to be seen.
Doe B never thought much of “Let Me Find Out,” stating in numerous interviews that it was a freestyle he knocked out in 20 minutes. And as good a time as “Let Me Find Out” is, it’s true that the song doesn’t fully capture the range of Doe B’s abilities. His most recent mixtape, last summer’s Baby Jesus, showcased them in full. He had a natural way with auto-tune (Check “Patrick Swayze” and “That’s You”). There was an openness and vulnerability about him, detailing how his mother found out about the shooting in which he lost his eye from the confines of a jail cell. He was clever beyond his years, reworking Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack” and Project Pat’s classic “Gorilla Pimp” in a brilliant homage to both. The mixtape is also now particularly unsettling to listen to at times; a sense of paranoia is prevalent throughout. “Listen 2 This Song,” off his previous mixtape Trap Life is especially heart-breaking.
Last Spring, I interviewed T.I. as part of a story that I was writing for XXL Magazine. Earlier that day, T.I. and his Hustle Gang roster had released G.D.O.D., which was a super impressive debut compilation tape from the label. Between Grand Hustle’s bankable stars like T.I. and B.o.B and its egregiously overlooked guys like Trae Tha Truth and Young Dro and a budding prospect like Travi$ Scott, the label was flush with talent that rivaled other, more high-profile crews. But that day T.I. kept telling me about Doe B:
“He has this ability to slide these subtle… Look, what lyricists like me have to concentrate on doing – trying to dumb it down and keep things simple – he does that shit so effortlessly. And he does such a good job at making it seem effortless that you forget he can really rap. So then he’ll get some shit in and you’re just like “Whoa, where the fuck did that come from?”
In the week after his passing, I reached out to a handful of people who worked intimately with Doe B before his untimely death. What follows are their memories and reactions to an unquestionable talent whose life was taken far too soon.
DJ Frank White
Well Doe and I first crossed paths through that whole incident with the stolen keyboard from my studio. It drove me away from him for maybe a year but he kept working and his music was going. Doe would still tell you he didn’t steal that keyboard, and I don’t know who really did it, but it did come across him in the streets. He always said he didn’t take it, but after that happened he came back to me with some songs and they were just undeniable. None of the other shit mattered. I saw what he was capable of. He would pop out of nowhere with a line and you’d be like “What the hell did he just say?! Like how did even know about that? He was a genius. He was the next Biggie Smalls of the South. He had the smarts, the gift, the look. He had it all in one package. That’s very rare. And he was only 22. He was just a big kid. He was humble. He was caring. He’d help anybody. And he just wanted to work. That was his main thing, making music. Even if he was just hanging out he’d be making a song in his head. Constantly working. He didn’t drink. He didn’t smoke. There wasn’t no real reason for that either. It just wasn’t for him. He was a happy person, man. A happy spirit.
Doe was my nigga. So I used to love “Let Me Find Out.” I had tweeted him and got his number. At first I sent him some beats and we did the email thing, because I didn’t know him like that. But then one day I just pulled up on him at the studio and that’s when we started going in. After that I was like yeah, this is a cool dude.’ He was normal like me and not with all the extra hip-hop shit. I’m in the studio with a lot of people, and sometimes people be too high or too drunk or too distracted with something else. But we could just go to the studio, pull up the beats and do what we were there to do. And Doe could RAP! I remember when we first linked up he was playing me some records he had, and he had some that sounded just like authentic, old Master P shit. He had some crazy shit. See, Doe had the swag of the songs of today – like today you can’t just rap, you gotta have the swag, some flavor. But he had the flavor and the rap substance. Like “Patrick Swayze” – I said this before Doe passed – that’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever done. That’s the kind of music I actually listen to on a day-to-day basis. Doe really loved “30 Piece” from the jump, but I was just always stuck on “Patrick Swayze.” We’ve got some more shit and I gotta find what drive it’s on, but I don’t want to just throw these records out. That’s not what I want to do. We gotta be careful about these records and just make sure his family can eat off it. This shit is so crazy. It fucks me up.
He had the “it” factor. Anybody I’m attracted to musically is someone like Doe. We first linked up through Eldorado Red. I was working with Eldorado, and Doe B was one of the guys Eldorado was putting on a lot of the songs I was giving him. As soon as I heard him, I asked Eldorado who that was. So he started telling me about Doe and I told Eldorado right away to start giving him some of my beats. Eventually we met up in Atlanta and started working on records, shooting videos. We were gonna do a whole mixtape together. What was also special about him is that a guy like that…A guy that has the gifts that Doe had, a lot of times they’re people you can’t even deal with or don’t want to deal with cause they’re arrogant or they’re in the studio actin’ funny. But this is a guy who anytime he wanted to come over, I’d tell him to come over. That’s another reason I wanted to do a full tape with him because we shared a lot of the same characteristics. He was at my house the Tuesday before Christmas. We were working on the tape. Like, what you mean he just got killed a few days later? It’s unbelievable. It ain’t feel right.
Rich Homie Quan
Before the remix, I had seen the video for “Let Me Find Out” and I was like ‘oh shit this boy is spittin’. Then I met him through my manager Fly and we got in the studio together and recorded “Jump Shots” and “2 Many” the same night. Two hits in one night. His work ethic was crazy though. He was an incredible artist. He was so young too. Even though he was younger than me I learned so much from him. There was a lot of pain in that music and I could relate to it. You could hear it in every bar. But he wasn’t just a rapper. I feel like I really lost a brother. He was a father. He was a son. A good person.
He was like a Boosie and a Pimp C rolled into one. He really was. I actually became aware of him through the Baby Jesus mixtape. He had already done a song with Juicy and I knew the song but I didn’t even know it was him. So I checked him out on LiveMixtapes and I was like ‘this dude is killer hard.’ I was like ‘Man, I really dig the way he’s comin’ on these songs.’ What really gripped me the most was he had this song about his momma in the street sellin’ drugs and I was like ‘ok that’s hard.’ I hit him up on Twitter and he and I started talking, exchanged numbers and from then on it was all good. We talked on the phone a lot. That was my guy, man. We just shot the video for the song [“Return Of Da Mac”] like a month and a half ago. You know, it’s really sad and tragic he went that way. I hate this for him. When I first started rapping I would kind of be like that… like in the hood, but you’ve got so many people out here that literally hate on you to the point that they want to kill you. This rap game man, I look at it as a cakewalk. This is not the street. This is a cakewalk. We can make all this money and not worry about the police taking it. And Doe was on his way to that. He had almost arrived. We used to talk about this all the time, that’s why I’m telling you. A lot of dudes out here take this rap shit for granted because they’ve never been out there for real. Doe B went through it for real. Dude was one of the coldest. I just hate it because he was really on his way and he got taken out of here so quick. I just wish somebody could have…I don’t know. It really messed me and Juicy up, man. We were looking at him like he was gonna bring that real street music back.
Neil Martinez-Belkin is a writer living in Boston. He's on Twitter - @Neil_MB