Hip-hop, St. Louis hip-hop in particular, was delivered a devastating blow early Friday morning when the news broke that rapper Huey was fatally shot in Kinloch on Thursday, June 25. He was 31.
“Y’all knew him as Huey, to his loved ones he was LJ! My lil cousin. They killed my cousin,” activist and rapper Bruce Franks Jr. said via Twitter. “Rest Easy! This [expletive] is hard, man!”
Huey was born Lawrence Franks Jr. in Kinloch – but raised in Walnut Park. He was still a teenager when he burst onto the St. Louis hip-hop scene with a song and accompanying dance so catchy that it went global. He was so young, that he called himself Baby Huey when “Pop, Lock & Drop It” was released in 2006.
“Huey was one of the dopest MCs in St. Louis if you ever heard him,” said fellow St. Louis rap star Chingy. “He was a great individual who was full of love.”
Along with his song “Oh,” “Pop, Lock & Drop It” was a guaranteed party starter on the St. Louis club scene. Huey was a local mixtape favorite. Through his presence on “Unsigned Hype,” he caught the attention of producer TJ Chapman, who introduced Huey to Mickey “MeMpHitz’ Wright. At the time, Wright was vice president of A&R for Jive Records.
“Pop, Lock & Drop It” became the lead single for Huey’s debut album “The Notebook Paper,” which was released by Hitz Committee and Jive Records in 2007.
The album cracked the top 30 of the Billboard 200 top albums when it debuted.
Huey instantly added his name to the list of St. Louis rappers contributing to hip-hop culture overall – Nelly, Chingy, Jibbs, J-Kwon, Ali, Murphy Lee and others – most recently Smino.
“Pop, Lock & Drop it” peaked at the number six position of the Billboard Hot 100 and was followed up by “When I Hustle,” which featured R&B heartthrob Lloyd.
He continued to release albums and mixtapes – and at one point was signed to rapper Waka Flocka Flame’s Brick Squad record label.
Huey remained a St. Louis favorite over the years and continued to pursue music, most recently under the moniker Hue Hef.
“Baby Huey a legend 4ever,” Smino said via Twitter.
Huey was most recently seen on stage in St. Louis when Chingy invited him to perform a medley of STL made mainstream hits during Chingy’s set at the sold-out 2019 Millennium Tour at Enterprise Center.
“I performed with Huey many times – he just always loved coming on stage and doing his thing,” said Chingy. “We would always have fun, as you can see. He came out and we had a good time. Every time we got together, that was pretty much all it was about.”
As soon as the beat dropped for “Pop, Lock & Drop,” the entire crowd of 20,000 erupted. They simultaneously danced and sang along to every word.
“Once you pop, lock, drop it for me, maybe we can roll,” the crowd rapped – joining in with Huey as his personal chorus.
“Huey was full of love, full of joy and he just wanted to have a great time and make sure people enjoyed it,” Chingy said. “So when we came together, you got a double dose of that.”
He was visibly overwhelmed by the gesture of fans who sang along with him on stage at Enterprise Center, which showcased that the song had solidified him a place in hip-hop history.
“You created a bonafide STL dance anthem in the early 2000s that continues to light up floors to this day,” said DJ James Biko. “I hate that your life was cut violently too short.”
He is survived by a 13-year-old daughter.
“Rest In Paradise to baby Huey,” Chingy said. “He will be missed, but he will always be here living through me though.”
As of press time, final arrangements are pending.