The death of a celebrity: What does it mean for us?

Ryland Staples | Staff Writer

YG, John Legend, Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled, Meek Mill

Photo Credit: Associated Press | Matt Sayles

Sept. 7, 2018, I was sitting at the front desk of Wilder Hall scrolling on Twitter, taking a break from doing my homework. It was a Friday afternoon, and I was relieved to be done for the week and offered to work an extra shift at the front desk.

As I was scrolling on my phone, I came across something that completely shocked me: TMZ had reported that Mac Miller had died of a drug overdose. 

I was in denial and convinced myself that the story was fake, but as I scrolled further down my timeline, I saw multiple sources confirming what I feared: the well-known rapper had died. 

I remember saying out loud, “Mac Miller died?” It was like a punch to the gut. Even though I hadn’t been a hardcore fan, I enjoyed his music. Miller had just dropped Swimming the month before and was set to go on tour. His passing really shocked people, and the cause being a drug overdose only made it more horrific. 

Mar. 31, 2019, I was doing laundry at a friend’s house when I found out via Twitter that rapper Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed outside of the store that he owned in L.A. Again, I wasn’t a hardcore fan, but he made good music and had a significant influence in his neighborhood. Hussle had opened his own store that employed local people and crafted programs that fought poverty in his neighborhood. He was able to create change in his community through real action.

Then Jan. 26, 2020, I was in the library, prepared to work, when my brother texted me asking if I had heard the news. I replied no and went to Twitter once again, where everyone was expressing their devastation over the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant. I didn’t know how to react. 

Bryant had long ago reached the level of fame where people recognized who you were talking about when you said “Kobe.” He was gone just like that. When the news confirmed that his daughter Gianna had been on the helicopter with him, it had only doubled the pain. 

An interview that resurfaced that day showed Bryant explaining that he started chartering helicopters because he wanted to be able to spend as much time with his family as possible. The infamous traffic in L.A. hindered him, and he realized that helicopters would save time. 

Bryant, his daughter and seven other victims, including the pilot, were on their way to a game when the helicopter crashed. 

I found out about all of these deaths via Twitter. Due to the prevalence of social media, people expect news to be delivered to the general public as quickly and efficiently as possible. This can be great, at times, but other times, can feel like a curse. When news outlets are competing with each other to be the first to break a story, the details can be muddled or, even worse, flat out wrong. 

I was 10 when Michel Jackson died, so I can’t say that I have the best memory of it. I asked my mother about it, and she said her sister had called her and then her co-worker and then other friends saying the same thing: Michel Jackson had died. It was literally a game of telephone.

It’s easy to see the impact of celebrity death on people. In some ways, it’s positive. After Mac Miller died, a lot of rappers proclaimed that they were “off lean” and throwing out other dangerous, hard drugs. After Nipsey Hussle’s death, other celebrities started pouring into his community. Now with Kobe, his famous “Mamba Mentality” has transcended the basketball court. It means the ability to take chances and do everything in life with 100 percent effort.

These celebrities die, but what they stood for, what they put out in the world, lives on forever. 

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