After appearing on tracks by other Twin Cities hip-hop acts for more than a half-decade -- including Muja Messiah, M.anifest, Villa Rosa and I.B.E. – Minneapolis rapper Dodi Phy was finally set to release his own album later this year. Sadly, though, the personal troubles that may have helped make him a compelling lyricist got the best of him before the record was completed.
The real-life Mohamed Turay, age 31, was found dead at his mother’s home in Minneapolis on Feb. 21. Family members said he committed suicide after a long battle with depression. He leaves behind two sons, Jabarri and Khalil, ages 9 and 8.
"Dodi Phy was a lyricist genius," Muja Messiah said, one of many comments on Turay that were gathered by his friend and collaborator Maria Isa to memorialize the rapper, whose funeral is Saturday.
"He was a master wordsmith with powerful penmanship who enjoyed writing and discussing social relevant issues; he was looked up to by every rapper who knew him and made everyone in the studio during my album step their game up 10 notches.”
In addition to “Cause & Effect,” a highlight from Muja’s 2008 album “Thee Adventures of B-boy D-boy,” Turay rapped on such tracks as M.anifest’s “My Lady Oh,” Villa Rosa’s fast-food anti-anthem “Food,” I.B.E.’s “Holdin’ Something” and another Muja collaboration with his own name on it, “Dodi Phy State of Mind.” Several of his own tracks, including “Capture the Moment” and “Block to the Booth,” also went viral in recent years.
He was working on a full album, “All Things Considered,” at the time of his death. His chief collaborator on the project, DJ Turtleneck, reportedly plans to complete the record in his friend’s honor.
Born in Houston and raised in Brooklyn Park and Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood, Turay was the son of West African immigrants who maintained ties to Sierra Leone. He started freestyle rapping by the age of 7 and was hitting local club stages regularly by the mid-‘00s.
“He was a raw, talented and troubled kid,” said local hip-hop booster Jon Jon Scott, who runs Sound Verte Records. Scott went on to call Dodi Phy “Minneapolis' very own Big L,” referring to the late Harlem rapper cultishly revered by many other MCs.
Slug of Atmosphere paid his respects via Twitter as soon as the news of his death hit the scene.
rip dodi phy. positive thoughts to his family and friends.— atmosphere (@atmosphere) February 22, 2014
M.anifest also saluted him publicly through Twitter.
Such a beautiful soul. why. why. did he have to go. RIP Dodi Phy. Wish you got flowers when you could still smell 'em.— M.anifest (@manifestive) February 25, 2014
Urging a more open dialect and understanding of mental illness, Turay’s younger brother Allie Turay Jr. said, "My brother suffered from depression his whole life but didn't talk about it with anyone.” Allie also addressed his brother directly with these comments: “Thank you for blessing us with two beautiful boys, for being there for us in good times and bad. You inspired and protected us, and will continue to throughout our lives.”
Turay will be remembered with a memorial service 11 a.m. Saturday at Masjid An-Nur Mosque, 1729 N. Lyndale Av., Mpls. Donations are being sent to the family via a GiveForward.com fund. A musical tribute is also in the works, tentatively scheduled March 30 at the Nomad Pub.
Special thanks to Maria Isa for gathering quotes and information for this report to pay her respect. The above photo of Turay, left, with Spit Ric, Maria and Muja Messiah was taken by BFresh Photography's Rebecca McDonald when they opened up for the Wu-Tang Clan at Epic nightclub in 2012 .