A wrongful-death lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles said that negligence and lax security amid a large gang presence at a Live Nation music festival led to the fatal stabbing of the rapper Drakeo the Ruler in December.
The suit, which seeks more than $25 million in damages on behalf of the rapper’s minor son, named the festival’s organizer, Live Nation, the world’s leading concert promoter, as a defendant, along with three co-promoters — Bobby Dee Presents, C3 Presents and Jeff Shuman — as well as Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Football Club, which subleased its stadium for the event.
Drakeo, born Darrell Caldwell, was preparing to perform at the festival on the night of Dec. 18 when he was confronted backstage by more than 100 people, according to the lawsuit — “a violent mob of purported members of a Los Angeles-based Bloods gang.”
The attack “was the result of a complete and abject failure of all defendants to implement proper safety measures in order to ensure the safety and well being of the artists whom they invited and hired to their music festival,” the suit said. At a news conference last week, lawyers for the rapper’s family called his death a “targeted assassination.”
A spokesperson for Once Upon a Time in LA, which is owned by Live Nation, said in a statement that the festival “joins Drakeo’s family, friends and fans in grieving his loss” and was “continuing to support local authorities in their investigation as they pursue the facts.” The company declined to comment on the lawsuit; the other defendants did not respond to requests for comment on the filing.
In recent months, Live Nation has faced criticism regarding festival security after 10 people were killed in the crowd at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston in November. As dozens of of Astroworld lawsuits proceed, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform has said it would investigate the festival’s organizers.
At Once Upon a Time in LA, artists like Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Al Green were set to appear across three stages. But the suit argued that given the festival’s setting in South Central Los Angeles (one of the city’s “most dangerous areas”) and the purported criminal affiliations of some of the artists on the bill, it was “highly probable that the music festival would attract a heavy presence of gang activity.”
Drakeo, 28, was a rising star in the city’s rap scene who had collaborated with mainstream acts like Drake, but was also being targeted by the Bloods, the suit said. In 2019, he was acquitted of felony murder charges in connection with the killing of a member of the gang; following a plea deal related to additional conspiracy charges in the same killing, he was released from jail in November 2020.
“It had been widely known to the public that certain members of the Bloods gang had rejected the acquittal, and sought to exact ‘street justice’ against Mr. Caldwell in order to avenge their slain member,” the suit said.
The lawsuit specifically cited the “ongoing public feud” between Drakeo and the Los Angeles rapper YG, although it added that “there is no evidence to indicate that YG had anything to do with the events” that led to Drakeo’s killing. An account of the rapper’s death published in Los Angeles Magazine last month by an eyewitness and member of Drakeo’s entourage also invoked YG’s presence at the festival and raised concerns by Drakeo’s family that the rivalry had played a part in the killing.
Representatives for YG said he has not been questioned by the police in connection with the incident, but declined to comment further. Los Angeles police have not announced any arrests related to the case, and the investigation remains ongoing.
According to the lawsuit, Drakeo’s entourage of 15 was split into two smaller groups by festival security, owing to Covid protocols, leaving the rapper with one personal security guard, who was not permitted to carry a weapon inside the concert grounds.
An initial altercation between Drakeo’s group and several other people was followed by scores of others, “many dressed in all red and wearing ski masks,” descending on the rapper, resulting in a “vicious and unrelenting attack” that left Drakeo with an ultimately fatal stab wound to his neck.
The promoters and security staff “knew or should have known that Mr. Caldwell’s safety was at risk,” the suit said.