After battling nasopharyngeal carcinoma for roughly a year, Oak Cliff reality rapper Corey Struggs — better known as C. Struggs — died last Friday at the age of 32. While his exit may have been premature, the North Texas native was able to solidify himself as a legendary figure in the local hip-hop scene.
Born Dec. 28, 1985, in Dallas to Ronnie Struggs and Joe Birdie Green, Struggs lived the life he often rapped about in his lyrics. As the son of an addict, he had a tumultuous upbringing but found he could make his mark playing football while attending Carter High School in Dallas.
During his senior year of high school, Struggs was featured by The Dallas Morning News as part of the “Big 3 Dallas Powerhouse” and had his mug plastered on the front of the metro broadsheet.
“We've got that [intimidation] amongst the Dallas schools but not against anybody else," Struggs said at the time.
He later earned a full-ride scholarship to Navarro College in Corsicana and was named all-conference in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference in 2005 before walking away his sophomore year to pursue other things.
According to his brother, Wendell Richardson, it was during this time that Struggs became focused on his other talents.
“(Struggs) and his baby mother ended up getting together and became pregnant, and he began rapping around then," Richardson says. "When I picked him up from college, he gave me two CDs he had made, and I was blown away.”
In the decade-plus since Struggs decided to put his secondary education and athletic ability behind him, he released a number of mixtapes and sold hundreds of thousands of albums around the world.
“It seemed like my brother made it to the door (of success) and was just about to cross over and his situation happened,” Richardson tells the Observer. “He rapped what he felt, and a lot of people could relate to it.”
Struggs first gained widespread notoriety in 2016 when he became the unfortunate butt-end of a joke in dozens of viral memes called “Give Him A Rap Name,” where social media users made up names often fat-shaming the shirtless and oversized Oak Cliff rapper.
The popularity of the meme caused several notable entertainers to come to Struggs’ defense, including actor and rapper Ludacris, who commented on Struggs’ prowess as a lyricist.
Struggs eventually became a meme once again in 2017 as “Big Nigga,” a larger-than-life superhero of sorts who seemingly saves the world in a variety of ways. Popular memes show him saving public schools with an AR-15 and stopping an asteroid with his bare hands.
In November, Struggs jumped back into his weight loss journey with his brother Richardson, who was the first to notice that something was seriously wrong.
“His nose began to bleed for hours at a time on our first workout, so I kind of panicked and I made him go to the hospital," Richardson says.
His brother says Struggs checked himself out of the hospital the day he was supposed to receive his test results so he could perform at a concert.
“He went to the show still feeling kinda sick, so we logged on the computer and found out the test results later that night," Richardson says.
Doctors found two tumors, one in his nose and the other in his neck, and subsequently diagnosed him with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare type of nasal and sinus cancer that is most commonly found in Asia.
“That shit got a nigga fucked up right now,” Struggs told Gutta TV back in March.
In the same interview, Struggs said he recorded two albums worth of material and several music videos before checking himself back into the hospital to undergo surgery. Why Not Hustle 2, the follow-up to his most successful mixtape, was released April 20 via Clone Free Music, and what looks to be his final release, Brad Jordan Junior, has yet to be officially announced.
Unfortunately for Struggs, he was not able to leave the hospital due to multiple organs failing during the procedure. Doctors kept the supersized rapper in a medically-induced coma for several weeks, but Struggs never fully recovered.
“It ant over until GOD say sooo. We a big fighting cancer ova here,” Struggs wrote in one of his last Facebook posts on July 30.
Despite several organs shutting down and depleted oxygen levels, Struggs had been rehabbing and seemingly doing better before finding out the news that his cancer had turned metastatic, according to his brother. He died several days later.
Several notable artists in the hip-hop community sent out condolences and tributes following Struggs’ death, including Daz Dillinger, E-40 and Rick Ross, the latter who worked with Struggs on his 2016 breakout hit “Do It.”
“I just got news that we lost a good nigga, man,” Ross said on Snapchat. “Real nigga, man. Dallas nigga, man. My homie, C. Struggs. I watched homie hustle and grind; I’ll never forget when he reached out to me. I said, ‘Man, I keep seeing you, my nigga.’ We stayed in touch, and got to knock one out. Shout out to everyone that’s repping C. Struggs for his little ones. Homie was a good dude. We remember you, homie, and we always gone (sic) remember you, homie.”
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“He was one of the best up-and-coming independent artists,” famed producer DJ Michael “5000” Watts, known for running the Texas hip-hop label Swishahouse Records, tells the Observer. The legendary producer and DJ also co-hosted Struggs’ latest mixtape Why Not Hustle 2. “He passed away too soon.”
A mural of Struggs’ likeness was erected on the corner of Topeka Ave. and Fabrication St. The art was painted by local hip-hop producer Tony Slowmo Beats and Jerod “Detox” Davies, who both had been working on the mural prior to his death. It is a fitting tribute for a man who was destined to do big things.
Struggs is survived by his mother, two brothers, two sons and a plethora of family and friends. You can donate to C. Struggs’ memorial fund.