He said watching an Instagram clip of the rapper Gillie Da Kid discussing how he handled the shooting death of his son helped motivate Quavo to step back into public-facing work. Last year he started the Rocket Foundation, which seeks to prevent gun violence, in partnership with the Community Justice Action Fund.
The work is still new to Quavo, whose music, like that of many active hip-hop artists, has relied on references to shootouts and firearms. Takeoff’s shooting death came on the heels of those of Young Dolph in Memphis and PNB Rock in Los Angeles. After the series of high-profile killings, E-40 and Too Short wrote an oped in The Atlantic calling for a hip-hop intervention.
For the foundation to have an effect, Quavo has to amplify its messaging about the shattering toll of gun violence by retelling what happened to Takeoff. Nothing could prepare him for the role, which he seemed intent on getting just right.
In a first major appearance for the foundation last month, Quavo went with his mother, Edna Marshall, and sister, Titania Davenport, along with other anti-gun advocates to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus and Vice President Kamala Harris. In a closed-door session, the family detailed the impact of Takeoff’s death, which was the first time, Quavo said, they’d spoken about it at length in front of one another. The conversation got emotional, and he remembers having been impressed at the eloquence of the other speakers who have been telling their stories for longer.
“All of this is new,” Quavo said, hands clasped in front of him. “I’m still learning, I’ve still got to read, I still got to get resources,” he added, his voice rising in frustration. “Please ask me a year from now, a year or two from now on how this feels, and I can be up there and give a speech.”
He said he knows he is being called to keep talking, to keep telling fans, legislators, anyone who will listen about what his nephew, his best friend, meant to him. That God could only give him a mission so directly through a personal tragedy. But the specifics of what to say and how to say it crumble under the weight of having to.