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PnB Rock, a Philadelphia rapper and singer who blended hip-hop and R&B, dies

Dan Deluca - Philly Inquirer

The Germantown-raised performer whose hits includes "Selfish," "Everyday We Lit" and "Fleek" was killed during a robbery in Los Angeles on Monday.

PnB Rock, the Philadelphia rapper and singer known for melodic hip-hop hits like “Everyday We Lit” and “Selfish,” was shot and killed in Los Angeles on Monday.

Just 30, he was one of the biggest names to emerge from the Philadelphia rap scene in the last decade.

With a talent for moving effortlessly between rap and R&B, the artist born Rakim Hasheem Allen reached hard-core hip-hop fans as he rose to fame on self-released mixtapes like his Real N—— Bangaz in 2014 and RnB the next year.

Early songs like the 2014 single “My City Needs Something,” a lament about escalating violence in Philadelphia, told a deeply personal story. “All of this killing, when will it stop?” he asked in song. “Good die young, ain’t how it’s supposed to be / Every time I turn around I lose somebody close to me.”

Geoff Gordon, regional head of Live Nation for Philadelphia and New York, said Mr. Allen was “a bright star and a big part of our creative community here in Philly. I will never forget his work ethic to make sure the audience got a show, no matter the size of the venue. He was a true professional in his craft.”

On Tuesday, three Live Nation venues in Philadelphia where Mr. Allen had performed — the Fillmore, Theater of Living Arts on South Street, and Met Philadelphia on North Broad, which he sold out as one of the first headliners when it reopened in 2018 — mourned the musician on their marquees.

Mr. Allen was shot multiple times during a robbery Monday at the Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles restaurant, where he was eating lunch with his girlfriend, Stephanie Sibounheuang, Los Angeles police confirmed to the Los Angeles Times.

Police had not identified the shooter or recovered a weapon as of Tuesday morning. No one else was injured in the shooting. Last week, Mr. Allen appeared on the Off the Record With DJ Academiks podcast and spoke about dealing with the risk of robberies.

“I never got robbed, ever in my life,” he said on the podcast. “I ain’t gonna say never because I don’t like saying never. I’m not superstitious, but I haven’t been robbed.”

The news of his death was confirmed by Atlantic Records on Tuesday. In an Instagram post, the label said that “PnB Rock was more than an artist. To many Rakim Allen was a great friend. … This news is heavy on our hearts and we are all hurting over this senseless loss.”

“Today is a sad day for Philly,” Stephen Piner, who along with his partner, Jamir Shaw, in the Philadelphia hip-hop concert company Dope Shows booked Mr. Allen at the Fillmore Philadelphia in 2018 and Mann Center for the Performing Arts in 2019. “We lost a legend.”

Mr. Allen was “very versatile. He could rap and sing,” Piner said. “He could be on a song with Meek Mill or Ed Sheeran and wouldn’t miss a beat. He was a humble and chill guy. He really embodied the ‘Philly supports Philly’ slogan.”

Born in 1991, Mr. Allen scored his first rap hit with “Fleek” in 2015, followed by “Everyday We Lit” with YFN Lucci in the next year, before crossing over to pop with collaborations like “Horses,” a 2017 cut from The Fate of The Furious soundtrack with Kodak Black and A Boogie wit da Hoodie. That year, he was named to XXL Magazine’s prestigious Freshman Class list of rising stars. In 2019, he joined Sheeran and Chance the Rapper on “Cross Me” and also teamed with Nicki Minaj that year on “Fendi.”

(On Monday night, Minaj tweeted: “He was such a pleasure to work with. Condolences to his mom & family. this makes me feel so sick. Jesus.”)

He released two albums on Atlantic Records, Catch These Vibes in 2017 and TrapStar Turnt PopStar in 2019, the latter split into sides that showcased his streetwise and romantic sides.

He independently released his most recent song, “Luv Me Again,” earlier this month.

Mr. Allen grew up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, and he took the PnB name from the intersection of Pastorious and Brayton. (When he headlined the Met in 2018, he noticed the initials of the venue’s cross streets — Poplar and Broad — and climbed up on the street signs for a photo.)

He was the third of five children of his mother, Hanunah Allen. In 2018, he told The Inquirer his mother was “a real music head,” who named him after the rapper Rakim and encouraged his musical interests, though he said: “I never thought music would be my calling. I was still stuck being in the streets.”

On his 2019 song “Middle Child,” he sang: “Mama had five boys, me, I was the middle child / By the age of 13 I was young and wild.” His family struggled, he said, moving “from place to place, house to house and shelter to shelter.” At 19, he was sentenced to 33 months in state prison for drug-related crimes.

At SCI Forest correctional facility in Western Pennsylvania, he focused on music. “In the penitentiary, you have music all around you,” he said. “People are making beats on keyboards and rapping in circles all day. I was part of that. I’d go into my cell and write music on my own time.”

Because there was little hip-hop radio in remote Forest County, his sound was shaped by pop radio hits, from acts like Rihanna and Katy Perry.

His music success didn’t put his legal troubles entirely behind him. In 2019, he was arrested on narcotics and firearms charges in Bensalem in Bucks County. In August 2021 he pleaded guilty to two charges and was sentenced to concurrent 36-month periods of probation.

Earlier this year he released a SoundCloud Daze mixtape, before following it up on Sept. 2, with “Luv Me Again,” which was released on his own New Lane Entertainment label and produced by D.A,. Got That Dope. On Instagram, the song was released accompanied by a drawing of Mr. Allen holding a bouquet of roses along with a message, “Preciate all the love I’ve been getting from my fans and supporters.”

In 2018, he told The Inquirer that his daughter Milan, then 5, was helping him mature in his life and his music. “I ain’t this perfect person,” he said. “I’m still growing. ... There definitely wouldn’t be no new me without the old me. I had to go through all of that to be this.”

He is survived by daughters Milan, from a previous relationship, and Zuri, with Sibounheuang . Funeral or memorial services have not been announced.

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