Arts and Entertainment

The Life and Death of PnB Rock

The story of rapper PnB Rock’s growth and achievements prior to his sudden death on September 12, 2022.

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Rapper PnB Rock spoke with DJ Akademiks in early September about the frequent burglaries of rappers in Los Angeles, California. During the interview, he said, “It’s so common. I never got robbed. Ever in my life.” He continued shortly after with “I ain't gon’ say never. I don't like saying ‘never.’ I’m not superstitious, but I haven’t been robbed.” PnB Rock was fatally shot in a robbery at Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles in Los Angeles about a week later.

Rakim Hasheem Allen, professionally known as PnB Rock, was born on December 9, 1991, in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Growing up in Philly, Allen was often surrounded by crime and violence. In an attempt to support his family, Allen’s father became involved in illegal activities, which unfortunately resulted in his murder during a gang feud when Allen was just three years old.

From a young age, Allen was often influenced by the crime that surrounded him. At 13, he was sent to a youth detention program for his involvement in robberies and school fights. Later, Allen was sentenced to 33 months in prison for drug possession, among other crimes. When he was released from prison, Allen found himself homeless and without family and friends who he believed would support his growth toward a better life. From there, he turned to music.

Allen kick-started his career by posting material from his music book on social media. In an interview with HipHopDX, Allen said, “Instagram was my platform to put my music out there and let people know what I had.” He released his debut mixtape on June 24, 2014, which he wrote while he was incarcerated. This mixtape brought Allen more traction, and by 2015, he had signed a record deal with Atlantic Records. By then, Allen had become known professionally as PnB Rock, which paid homage to Pastorius and Baynton, a street corner near where he grew up in Philly.

PnB Rock’s goal when writing his music was for it to be timeless. He wanted to produce music that people would listen to “next year, and the year after that.” In no time, he was achieving this goal. PnB Rock released his single “Selfish” in June of 2016, and it peaked at number 51 on the US Billboard Hot 100. He was included in Rolling Stone’s list of “10 New Artists You Need to Know” in October of that same year. His music was influenced by rapper 2Pac and R&B group Jodeci, two artists who PnB Rock grew up listening to, as well as contemporary stars like Drake, who he cited as a significant stylistic influence on his music. PnB Rock released his second retail mixtape “GTTM: Goin Thru the Motions” in January of 2017, which debuted at number 28 on the US Billboard 200 chart. By 2022, PnB Rock had also collaborated with other talented artists such as Wiz Khalifa, Kodak Black, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Playboi Carti, Ed Sheeran, Pop Smoke, and XXXTentacion on various soundtracks, singles, and mixtapes.

PnB Rock once said, “I’m from the hood. I’m from Philly. I’m giving you everything that I got in me with this music. So that’s why I feel like I can separate myself from everybody else.” And throughout his foreshortened career, he did just that, contributing two studio albums, five mixtapes, one EP, and 19 singles to the rap and hip-hop world in just eight years while embracing his own individual style.

PnB Rock’s persevering attitude and honest songwriting inspired many artists around him. John Morrison, a writer and DJ from Philly, said, “He made honest music that reflected how a lot of us feel in this city and how a lot of us have felt for a long time.” Taz Taylor, record producer and founder of Internet Money Records, also took to social media to express his admiration of PnB Rock by saying, “PNB [was] always one of the nicest and most genuine people to be around.”

When asked in an interview with HipHopDX if he ever thought he’d be where he is today, PnB Rock answered with a quick “Hell no.” Amid his thriving music career, PnB Rock described himself as “just some young guy from Philly that be singing and rapping,” but to reach the peak of his success, he had to work hard to pull himself out of the crime and poverty that he was born into. Ultimately, his struggles and resilience are what helped him achieve this success. “I’ve seen a lot. I been through a lot. And that influenced me. If it wasn’t for Philly, I wouldn’t be me.”