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Remembering Bankroll Fresh: Hot Boy, Unsung Star, Atlanta Hero

In the wake of hits like "Hot Boy" and "Walked In," the possibilities were endless for the 28-year-old Atlanta rapper, who was shot and killed over the weekend.


Bankroll Fresh driving / Still from Noisey Atlanta

The most enduring images of Bankroll Fresh are of him driving. The first shot most saw of him was in a Mercedes truck, his seat reclined so far back that his nose barely poked above the window—that's how "Hot Boy" opened. Then there was the YouTube video of Fresh and his adoring four-year-old nephew PJ Bankroll, neither of them bound by seatbelts, riding around town, counting hundreds and rapping together. In Noisey's own Noisey Atlanta, Bankroll drives through his neighborhood, leaning out the window to talk to people on the sidewalk. There’s the story A-Trak shared yesterday, that Bankroll drove up from Atlanta to New York by himself on a day’s notice, just to perform a few songs at Fool’s Gold’s Day Off 2015. And there's Take Over Your Trap, the mini-movie he just recently released with Worldstar, where he tails a crooked pastor he’s determined to set straight… in his very conspicuous truck.

It was a 2014 white Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, a full-sized pick-up that looks like it has shoulders. Commercials will tell you it’s good for hauling payload and getting the job done. So the advertising copy and personality demographics made sense for a guy like Bankroll Fresh—so blue-collar he had no-collar—but lord knows why he got that thing: Baling hay, moving gravel and wearing Lee jeans aren’t often the activities of a rapper in Atlanta. One could say it was an extension of his personality, the way dogs sometimes look like their owners. Or you could say it was just a truck, the guy tied bandanas to the front side of his neck, he could only be himself.

Bankroll Fresh was born and raised in Zone 3 on the West Side, one of the rougher neighborhoods in a city defined by police patrol zones. Growing up, crack was sold up and down the street; now the block is just as depressed if not as active. He credited his grandmother for teaching him the game, but "she sold candy.” In the same video from 2015, he said, “[I can] fuck around in any of the hoods. I’m good anywhere, cause they know home been grinding… and it really be fuckin’ with people too, because they like, Damn, home can really rap, too?” He'd gone straight.

It was a surprise to him, too. Fresh wasn’t an immediate sensation. His road was slower, more uncertain: He popped up in 2011, calling himself Young Fresh, a truly-nothing name hanging around Gucci Mane and wearing all-purple swag. By 2013, with a more distinct name and persona, he was in the studio with Future, Metro Boomin, Wiz Khalifa, and Mike WiLL Made-It, but he was always the forgotten third guy on a song.

That is until he put out his own project, Life of a Hot Boy in 2014. When “Hot Boy” hit, that’s when people first felt the excitement; “ESPN” and “Show Em How to Do It” featuring Rich Homie Quan solidified it. On "ESPN," he rapped "Rockstar, Marilyn Manson, diamonds dancing / Ballin' on these bitches man..."; months later, Drake and Marilyn Manson partied to his music together in Sydney. Things kept moving: he was now aligned with 2 Chainz and Street Execs management. The Vine-ready “Walked In” spread wide; the fluttering “Take Over Your Trap,” only released a couple of months ago, is still growing. Young Jeezy reached out to his manager just this week, saying, “What’s good my G. Let’s sit down, talk about bank. Fucks wit em.” The possibilities were endless.

This wasn't the way it should've ended. Not when he was almost there.

Bankroll Fresh was 28.

Follow Jeff Rosenthal on Twitter.