Fans praise slain rapper Takeoff at Atlanta memorial

ATLANTA (AP) — Fans celebrated the musical legacy of slain rapper Takeoff on Friday at a memorial service in Atlanta, near where the artist grew up, that drew Justin Bieber, Drake and other big names in the music industry.

Takeoff, part of the Grammy Award-nominated trio Migos with uncle Quavo and cousin Offset, was shot and killed earlier this month outside a Houston bowling alley. A woman and another man were also wounded in the shooting. No arrests have been made.

Jenifer Loving, 22, stood in line with her infant son, Mateo, for more than an hour before the doors at State Farm Arena opened to fans who were able to get a free ticket. She said Takeoff’s death was heartbreaking in part because he was only 28 years old.

Migos’ music represented the creativity and culture of the Black community, she said, and she worried the group would be too saddened to make new music — at least for a while.

“It’s just something that you can play anywhere, and everybody will just come out and come around and dance,” she said. “It’s how it brings people together. It’s how it makes the whole room just fill up with positivity.”

Eric Hood, an Atlanta firefighter, said he was shocked when he heard about Takeoff’s death because of the three members of Migos, he was considered the most laid back.

Migos’ music was an “escape” for many people, he said, and he was hopeful the event would leave the rapper’s family and the rest of the group with lasting memories of him.

“I pray for them,” he said. “I hope they continue to be uplifting, positive, influential members in the society and keep pushing forward.”

Dozens of fans lined up early at the arena, home to the Atlanta Hawks, despite rainy weather. A massive sign outside was lit up with the rapper’s image.

Free tickets to the memorial service were available to Georgia residents, but State Farm Arena said well before Friday that the event had reached capacity and fans without tickets should not come downtown.

Organizers did not release a program for the event or allow media inside. Several fans leaving the event confirmed Bieber and Drake’s presence and said Offset and Quavo also talked.

Atlanta resident Jeffrey Wilson said the event was moving.

“His mother was up there, and I could see the tears in her,” Wilson said. “I felt the kinship myself, like I knew him personally.”

Tyler Williams drove hours from Montgomery, Alabama, on Friday morning with his 2-year-old son, Ashton.

“He probably won’t remember it,” he said of his son. “But it’s something to have when he gets older, to know he was there.”

Migos broke out nearly a decade ago with the 2013 hit “Versace,” which hit even greater heights in popularity through a Drake remix. The trio were largely raised by Takeoff’s mother in an Atlanta suburb.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said the day after the shooting that Takeoff, born Kirsnick Khari Ball, was “well respected,” and there was “no reason to believe he was involved in anything criminal at the time.”

Migos’ record label, Quality Control, mourned Takeoff’s death in a statement posted on Instagram that attributed it to “senseless violence and a stray bullet.” Police have said nothing about the gunshot being stray.

Instead of flowers or gifts, his family has asked that people make donations to The Rocket Foundation, which was established in Takeoff’s honor and aims to prevent gun violence, according to its website.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.