New York (AFP) - Chinx, the New York rapper who won a growing following by turning his bleak experiences as a drug-dealer into verse, was shot dead Sunday. He was 31.
The rapper -- whose works included a series of mixtapes with the prophetic title "Hurry Up and Die" -- was driving a Porsche in the early morning in Queens when another motorist opened fire, police said.
Chinx, whose real name was Lionel Pickens, was pronounced dead at a hospital where another passenger was being treated for bullet injuries.
Police did not immediately arrest a suspect or describe a motive for the shooting, which reportedly came after Chinx drove from a hookah lounge.
"Chinx was one of the most talented, professional and determined rappers this industry had to offer," publicist Chanel Rae said in a statement confirming his death.
The rapper became a breakaway success in the hip-hop world with his 2012 song "I'm a Coke Boy" recorded with his mentor French Montana, the Moroccan-born rapper and label chief.
A remix of the song featured rap giant Sean Combs, best known as Puff Daddy. Chinx collaborated more recently with Young Thug.
Superstar Jay Z -- who also grew up poor in New York -- mourned Chinx and pleaded for an end to street violence.
"We are seriously under attack like never before," Jay Z said at a concert for his Tidal streaming service.
"And we (are) still killing each other. We need to understand that we are kings and queens."
- Anthem of drug culture -
"I'm a Coke Boy" was an anthem of sorts to the drug-dealing lifestyle, with the lines:
"Could have been a pilot / Could have been a doctor / Could have been a pimp / Could have been a mobster... Keep wiggling, baby / I'm a motherfucking coke boy."
Another hit, "Feelings," spoke of his numbness at witnessing the street life around him.
French Montana paid tribute to Chinx, saying that his killing showed: "The devil comes in all shapes and sizes and he's ruthless. Life here is temporary."
Suggesting that "jealousy" could have been a motivation for the killing, French Montana said: "They will kill you for this lifestyle."
"These streets don't love us," he wrote on Instagram.
Chinx, who had two children, was strongly identified with drug culture, with a recent photo he posted on social media showing him smoking from a pipe shaped like a rifle.
But he distanced himself slightly as he gained more mainstream recognition, shortening his stage name from the original Chinx Drugz.
Chinx was an acronym he developed in prison, standing for Coward-Hearted Individuals Never Exist.
Raised in Queens by his grandmother as his mother struggled with drugs, Chinx said that he turned at an early age to music to express himself.
He was profoundly affected by the 2007 death of his friend Stack Bundles, a rising rapper who was shot in front of his home in Queens while Chinx was in prison.
In a 2013 interview with The Village Voice, Chinx said that drug-dealing prepared him for the music industry because the jobs required similar skills -- keeping a constant eye for danger and police.
"You gotta maneuver your way through the same shit to get to the prize," he said.
"I honestly think it's easier to go to the NBA than be a successful rapper."