Family, fans mourn rapper Doughboy Roc: 'An out-of-body-out-of-mind experience'

Family and fans mourn the death of Detroit rapper Doughboy Roc

It was surreal, says Carolyn Yeargin Martin, her voice soft and still somewhat dazed.

The 67-year-old was heading home from a doctor's appointment Monday when a niece called to share the news: Rodney Yeargin, Martin's great-nephew, was dead. 

While Detroiter's may know Yeargin by his rap name, Doughboy Roc — a member of the Detroit group Doughboyz Cashout — for Martin, this was family. Yeargin was the handsome little boy she helped raise; her little "Pooda-Tata." 

Turning her vehicle around, Martin and her husband, Nesvie, rushed to the scene of the crime – the intersection of Stoepel and Westfield on Detroit’s west side – where Yeargin had been found around 3:30 p.m. inside a white Hyundai with multiple gunshot wounds.

"It looked like a concert, people were there in droves in every direction," Martin said, noting that the situation was especially painful because they knew there was nothing they could do. Yeargin's mom, Sharonda Yeargin, a nurse practitioner, kept screaming that she wanted to give her baby CPR, according to Martin; they were forced, instead, to stand on the sidelines, coming to terms with the tragic reality of the afternoon. 

"It was an out-of-body-out-of-mind experience, that I never hope to have to experience again," Martin said Tuesday.

“I’ve had a lot of death in my family, unfortunately, but there was something about this," she said pausing. "I haven’t had it where someone to took another’s life. His life was taken, and that’s why this hurt me so bad.”

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A rapper, performer, and mainstay in the Detroit and Midwest hip-hop scenes — racking up millions of listens on SoundCloud and YouTube — Yeargin built a formidable regional reputation for his brand of raw, provocative street hip-hop. Before the Wayne County medical examiner had even identified his body Tuesday, word of his death had bounced around social media, with friends like Big Sean and Jerry Production shouting out the 29-year-old on Twitter. 

The news was a crushing blow for the local music scene. And a real reminder of disparities that remain in the city of Detroit. Weeks before the young performer was killed, Detroit recovered its FBI ranking as America's most violent big city. While Detroit Police Chief James Craig pushed back on the finding, deaths like Yeargin's seem to amplify fissures in the Detroit revival story. Just in the past 100 days, there have been 44 people killed by guns in the city of Detroit, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. Numbers like this — as well as the fact that since 2005 over a half a dozen celebrated Detroit rappers have been murdered — serve as an all too real reminder of the day-to-day violence that persists in the neighborhoods and overshadows the lives of many of the city's black male youths. 

Police say there are no witnesses to the death, and they are still searching for the shooter. 

Doughboyz Cashout never broke into the mainstream or landed a major radio hit. But Roc and his group were stars in their own right. 

Since forming in 2006 — a merger of competing crews from Oak Park High School and Roc’s Southfield High — they rose to prominence painting a lyrical world of hustling, guns, strip clubs and flashy bling. They were out to portray “the real Detroit,” as Doughboy Dre told Rolling Out magazine in 2012.

When Young Jeezy signed Doughboyz Cashout to his Atlantic Records-affiliated CTE World label in 2013, he pointed out the group’s distinct place on the Detroit landscape: While the city had produced mega-successes such as Eminem and Big Sean, “now it’s time for the ghetto superstars,” Jeezy told WJLB-FM (97.9).

By 2016, the group was no longer affiliated with CTE World, with just one significant release — the 2015 mixtape “Bylug World” — to come out of the deal. Members continued to release their own independent projects, including Roc’s own “Loyalty is Everything” in 2016 and “Rock vs Balboa” last month. Roc's aunt Shaereia Yeargin said Tuesday the group will carry on in the wake of the rapper's death.

While Yeargin may have been "Roc" the local celebrity to his fans, to Martin and the rest of his family he was just Rodney, a laid-back and mild-mannered gentleman. 

"I remember being on the phone with him the other week and he said, 'Hold on Aunty,' and he took a lady's groceries to her car. He was just a people person, just loving, he wanted to help anyone," Shaereia Yeargin said Tuesday. 

This sense of altruism and generosity is something Martin, who helped raise Yeargin, says she will remember, too. Taking care of others and making sure nobody was left behind, had always been a key tenant of the family. 

When Yeargin was born, his mother, Sharonda, was still in high school. Dropping out, however, was not an option. Martin encouraged Sharonda to stay in school, saying she would help take care of the newborn and that nothing should get in the way of education. Sharonda ended up graduating from high school, going on to get a nursing degree and eventually a master’s degree.

This focus on education is why when Yeargin was starting high school his mom decided to pull him out of Detroit Public Schools. She wanted the best possible life for her son, and for him to stay away from the violence that was known to plague Detroit. Using a family member's address, according to her sister Shaereia, Sharonda Yeargin enrolled her son at Southfield High. 

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Rodney Yeargin, better known as Doughboy Roc, was killed Monday October 9, 2017. (Photo: Jerry Production)

This is where Yeargin met the crew that would ultimately become his legacy: the guys that made Doughboyz Cashout. 

The group put out its first album in 2009, gaining more widespread fame in 2012 when they released their third album "Free Roc," which was named after Yeargin, who was incarcerated in 2010 for carrying a weapon with unlawful intent. 

While Martin agrees that there is a somewhat tragic irony in the fact that Yeargin's lost his life to violence, despite efforts to move him away from such dangers, she also notes that he ultimately followed his passion. 

"He wanted to rap about the city he loved and lived in," she said. "He wouldn't have been a very effective rapper if he lived in the suburbs." 

As news of the untimely death spread on social media, friends and fans took to their networks to share memories and tributes.   

On Monday evening HBK Kid, a member of Doughboyz Cashout, posted on Twitter a tribute to his friend and collaborator: "not just me but the whole city lost a real good n***. Rest up Roc We love you," he wrote. 

Jerry Production, a Detroit-based videographer, tweeted out a tribute video memorializing Roc, who he said treated him like a little brother. 

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Article Family, fans mourn rapper Doughboy Roc: 'An out-of-body-out-of-mind experience' compiled by www.freep.com