St. Paul rapper Poppy Loco dead from shooting at 24

Dwante B. Benson, also known as St. Paul rapper Poppy Loco, died of a gunshot wound Saturday at Hennepin County Medical Center, the Star Tribune reports.

Over the past few years, Benson had been making a name for himself in Twin Cities street rap. He was best known for the music videos he made with locally based YouTube channels like MinnesotaColdTv, Alite Productions, and Neighborhood Films, videos that commonly generated between 25,000 to 75,000 views, and sometimes more. Benson’s track “The Number 1 Gunna,” a remix of C-Murder’s “Down for My Niggaz,” has totaled 165,000 views to date.

Songs like “The Number 1 Gunna” attracted attention for Poppy’s explicit disses of local gangs and their members. But his music didn’t give the sense that he rapped solely to intimidate or address those he saw as his rivals, and his music had a consistency that suggested he’d make an even greater impact as he matured.

Benson was reportedly intending to film a new music video this past Friday, his 24th birthday. He was also gearing up to release his long-in-the-works mixtape, I.M.O.C. (I’m My Own Competition), on October 16 via online mixtape hub DatPiff. With MinnesotaColdTv’s upload of a new trailer for the mixtape last night, it appears I.M.O.C. will still come out on schedule.

Though his more controversial lyrics may have overshadowed his abilities as a rapper, Poppy showed promise. When he wanted to, he rapped seriously and effectively about race and about the motivation and inspiration he received from his children. That’s what he brought to the table last year when he delivered the single best verse on “Champions,” a song featuring five other local rappers. (His verse starts at 1:53.)

MinnesotaColdTv’s Santana Smith, who filmed around 20 music videos with Benson over the past three years, once told City Pages that channels like his “represent Minnesota and urban hip-hop, the voices of the people that can’t be heard.” Benson was someone who finally was being heard, and by an increasingly large audience. With his death, local rap is now missing an honest and observant young voice.