Jimmy Wopo, a rising star in the hip-hop music world who was about to sign a contract that would have taken him out of Pittsburgh, was shot Monday in the city’s Hill District neighborhood that he often rapped about.
Wopo and another man were ambushed at 4:22 p.m. as they sat in a sport-utility vehicle in the 2400 block of Wylie Avenue; he was pronounced dead at 5:56 p.m. at UPMC Presbyterian. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner said the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head.
A law enforcement source said Wopo was in the driver’s seat of the 2007 Mazda CX7. Bullet holes could clearly be seen in the driver’s side window. The source was not authorized to comment on the incident and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Wopo’s death also was confirmed by his manager, Taylor Maglin, who told the Post-Gazette, “Jimmy has passed away, and we ask that you keep his family in your prayers during this tough time.”
Mr. Maglin had posted a call for prayers for the 21-year-old musician on Facebook, followed two hours later with a pledge to keep Wopo’s memory alive forever.
Pittsburgh police were investigating the shootings and had released no information on suspects or a motive. Wopo’s passenger was listed in stable condition.
Jimmy Wopo was the stage name for Travon Smart, who started rapping when he was 14 at the Bedford Hope Center studio in the Hill District.
Since then, Wopo had become one of the most sought-after young talents in hip-hop, and was recently considered for XXL Magazine’s annual Freshman list recognizing the genre’s up-and-comers.
Wopo made a style of hip-hop music called trap rap, which combines bass-heavy beats with raw and unfiltered lyrics. Some artists use it as a way to share their lived experiences with their fans. Wopo was no different.
Wopo found himself following in the footsteps of Pittsburgh rappers Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller, who both amassed large followings outside of Pittsburgh. But Wopo, unlike Miller and Khalifa, had remained in the city. “I’m really in the heart of Pittsburgh — where the savage at,” he told the Post-Gazette’s Scott Mervis in 2016 when two of his videos surpassed 1 million views each.
Wopo was on the cusp of the big time… and of getting out.
Wopo called his attorney, Owen Seman, just 15 minutes before the shooting, to discuss a contract he was about to sign with Taylor Gang Entertainment, the label founded by Wiz Khalifa. Mr. Seman said it was for a 27-date tour scheduled to start July 27th.
“He would be making life-changing money,” said Mr. Seman. “His life was about to change. He was going to be gone… He was going to be out of Pittsburgh.
“The kid had finally, really… really… He was there.”
Wopo was planning to move to Los Angeles in the coming months, according to his close friend and producer, Norman Dean.
“We were supposed to start fresh out there,” Mr. Dean said.
Mr. Seman said he was preparing to go to the judge in charge of Wopo’s probation and request permission for him to travel. He had been convicted of drug charges twice and last summer was sent to jail for 60 days for violating probation.
“These guys don’t make any real money until they sign a deal,” said Mr. Seman. “The idea these guys make all this money is just not true. They’re still living in the hood because they don’t have the money to get out yet.”
Mr. Dean, who has mixed and engineered Wopo’s work since they met two and a half years ago, said he talked to Wopo on Sunday about getting into the studio soon to make more music.
Through their music, Mr. Dean said, the two became brothers.
“We really became family. I watched him grow, not only as an artist but so much as a person,” said Mr. Dean, 24, of the South Side. “I saw him mature and watched his heart grow.”
“He was a great man,” Mr. Dean added. “He was a great person. He was a great friend. He always did everything he could to make sure all of his family and all of his brothers were taken care of.”
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SOURCE: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – JULIAN ROUTH, PAULA REED WARD, SCOTT MERVIS, and KEVIN FLOWERS