By the time she turned 18, St. Paul rapper Lexii Alijai had already amassed 20,000 Instagram followers, 100,000-plus SoundCloud streams and an appearance on a Grammy-nominated album. She made a quick impression in her hometown music scene, too, performing at both the Soundset festival and First Avenue’s Best New Bands showcase in 2016.
The fast-rising Twin Cities hip-hop star’s life has been tragically cut short, according to friends and family who announced her death on New Year’s Day via social media. She was only 21.
Official details are not yet available on the death of the young entertainer, whose full name was Alexis Alijai Lynch. She was not known to be ill and had been active on social media Tuesday with no signs of distress.
Lexii came from a musical family that included grandfather Roger Troutman, who fronted the Ohio funk and R&B band Zapp and was also a Parliament-Funkadelic alum; and her father Roger Troutman Jr. (aka Roger Troutman II and Roger Lynch Troutman Jr.), who recorded for Capitol Records in the late 1980s.
“I’m heartbroken, I’m angry, I’m confused, I love you Lexii,” one of her best-known musical friends, California R&B singer Kehlani, said in a tweet Wednesday.
Lexii was featured on Kehlani’s 2015 single “Jealous,” which cracked the top 40 in Billboard and helped her earn a Grammy nomination for best contemporary R&B album that year with “You Should Be Here.”
One of Lexii’s cousins in the Twin Cities, Raeisah Clark, was the first to make the tragic news public with a Wednesday afternoon post on Facebook.
“Rest in paradise you’ll never be forgotten!” Clark wrote. “I’m so lost for words... my beautiful cousin with so much talent & unique soul Lexii Alijai. It’s too soon.”
Another cousin in St. Paul, LaMycha Jett, also wrote on Facebook, “You touched so many people thru your music. Your commitment and dedication was amazing.”
While still a student at Como Park High School and Creative Arts Secondary School in St. Paul, Lexii garnered some viral attention posting clips of herself rapping over tracks by Drake, Jay-Z and other stars.
She issued her first mixtape at age 16, “Super Sweet 16,” and proceeded to crank out several more before her first full-length album, “Growing Pains,” arrived in 2017. It featured numerous songs preaching empowerment for young women, including a remake of the classic OutKast song “Miss Jackson” rewritten from a female perspective.
“I’m so honest, and I really put the guys on the spot,” she said in a 2016 interview with City Pages. “I just say stuff that every girl goes through, and they just can’t say it. I just wanna make the guys better, too.”
Lexii appeared on several all-women lineups in clubs around the Twin Cities and was part of the Super Bowl Live festival on Nicollet Mall in January 2018. She also performed on the road opening for the likes of Mod Sun and Bas, the latter of whom also expressed his shock Wednesday via Twitter.
“This is hard to comprehend,” the New York rapper wrote. “So young, talented, humble, and gracious. I was positive it was only a matter of time before the world celebrated your talent and your character. RIP Lexii.”
She was only a toddler when her father died under unexplained circumstances from a head injury in 2003 at age 33. Her grandfather also died tragically just a few years before that, when he was shot by one of his brothers and bandmates in Zapp, who then killed himself.
Tributes to Lexii poured out of the Minnesota music scene onto social media Thursday, from radio stations Go 95 and the Current to peers Dizzy Fae, Sophia Eris and Allan Kingdom to veteran hip-hop stars Atmosphere, Doomtree, Heiruspecs and Toki Wright.
“You are a star. Rest well,” wrote Wright, now the chair of Berklee College of Music’s professional music department in Boston.
Twin Cities hip-hop maven Maria Isa lovingly recounted visiting Lexii when she was 15 at her home in St. Paul, where she grew up with her mother Jessica and an older sister.
“Her room at the time was baby pink walls covered with posters of J Cole, Jay Z, Drake and more,” Isa said. “Lexi was simply a grenade. Small and tiny but explosive and massive.”