Quavo Is Still Grieving Takeoff. He Went to Capitol Hill To Talk About It

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Quavo-Congress-lead - Credit: Kevar Whilby
Quavo-Congress-lead - Credit: Kevar Whilby

Atlanta rapper Quavo walks into Washington, D.C.’s Convention Center to immense fanfare. People film him on their phones, including one man who proclaims, “That’s the man right there” as Quavo walks by with his mother, Edna Maddox, and his sister Titania Davenport. Another man calls out his name as the trio goes down an escalator. Quavo is unfazed by it all; he’s been in the public eye for more than a decade as one-third of the iconic Migos rap group and now a platinum soloist. But he’s not at a star-studded industry event today. He’s meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus to talk about Takeoff, his late nephew and Migos partner, who was fatally shot last November in Houston.

Quavo and his family took to the nation’s capital on Sept. 20 to speak to the CBC and other prominent politicians, including Vice President Kamala Harris, about being directly impacted by gun violence. Maddox is Takeoff’s grandmother, and Davenport is the late artist’s mother. All three were clad in black throughout the day; their designer attire might have been a fashion choice, but it also felt reflective of mourning their family member, who was hit by a stray bullet at a bowling alley at just 28 years old.

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Quavo has been open about his grief, telling media personality Jamie Crawford-Walker this summer that sometimes he cries himself to sleep at night. He and his family shed tears at multiple junctures on Wednesday. Last November, Quavo and his family started the Rocket Foundation in homage to Takeoff. The foundation has dispersed $2 million to four organizations focused on on-the-ground community initiatives working on gun violence, justice reform, and related issues: Offenders Alumni Association, Live Free, H.O.P.E. Hustlers, and Community Justice Action Fund. The latter nonprofit is led by D.C.-based activist Greg Jackson, who stood by Quavo’s side through most of his day in the city.

Their advocacy begins around noon with a closed-door meeting with prominent congresspeople such as Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Georgia), Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware), and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia). While journalists aren’t allowed in the meeting, I hear later about how Quavo, Maddox, and Davenport tearfully shared their individual perspectives on how Takeoff’s death has affected them, and how the politicians commended all three for pushing through their grief and using their public profile to push for initiatives to stop gun violence. They also discussed the Break the Cycle of Violence Act, a proposed law which would provide grants to community organizations trying to curb violence and provide resources to deter people from the streets.

After the meeting, several of the politicians individually walk up to Quavo and his family to offer condolences and extol their bravery. Maddox tells Rolling Stone that the meeting “felt like family, talking to somebody that you had been knowing.” She adds, “They could feel how we were feeling. I liked being in the presence of somebody like that. It’s no need for me to talk to you if you don’t know what I’m talking about.” She contrasts this with well-meaning people who tell her “‘I know, I know’… No you don’t. You never been through it. You can’t imagine what I’m going through if you haven’t went through it.“

A few minutes later, the three somberly walk outside to head to a second meeting down the street with Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House. When the three Suburbans carrying Quavo, his family, and their team pull up to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, he gets out stretching his arms and shaking his feet the way one would after a long road trip. He’s already done a lot of walking in his Prada dress shoes, and has much more stumping to do.

Vice President Harris has been supportive of gun legislation; after this summer’s racially-motivated mass shooting in Jacksonville, she released a statement noting that “Congress must help secure freedom by banning assault weapons and passing other commonsense gun safety legislation.” Quavo and Jackson are vying to bring similar awareness to community gun violence. Jackson doesn’t attend this particular meeting, leaving just Quavo, his mother, and his sister to meet with Harris. Two days later, it’s announced that Jackson will be working with Harris as Deputy Director of a newly announced White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

Quavo is supposed to speak at an anti-gun violence panel at 3 p.m. back at the Convention Center, but it’s roughly 3:30 when they leave the White House lawn and take some pictures. In the truck, Quavo, Maddox, and Davenport are more upbeat than when they left the prior meeting. Quavo stretches out in the back row while his mother and sister take the two middle seats.

Both women tell me that they had a productive meeting with Vice President Harris, recalling that she assertively told photographers when the photo ops were done and it was time for the four of them to talk privately.

During the short ride back to the Convention Center, both women acknowledge their pain, but Davenport feels that “God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.” Maddox adds, “This is something He chose for us, we didn’t choose this, so we gotta give Him praise, either way.” She says that their current battle reminds her of gospel singer Marvin Sapp’s “He Has His Hands On You,” which she starts to sing.

In the back of the truck, Quavo admonishes someone on the phone for being out on a scooter by themselves while wearing a chain; he may have seen the person while scrolling through social media in the truck. His concern for whomever he’s speaking to has deeper resonance in the context of why they took to Capitol Hill. After the call, he leans forward and shows his family members pictures that they’ve taken throughout the day. Quavo notes that they unintentionally “left space for Take” in several of the photos. Both Maddox and Davenport simultaneously agree: “It’s always a space” in their pictures of late, they say.

Right before pulling into the Convention Center, Quavo asks someone on the phone if they had invited Vice President Harris to a banquet he organized later that evening. “She gonna come fuck with me? Tell her I said come fuck with me,” he says, in full salesman mode. He’s told that she’s headed to a Hispanic Heritage Month event which may hinder her availability. He replies, “Tell her come fuck with me after she met with them folks. We Migos.”

Maddox jokes, “She got a silk press appointment.” Davenport praises the vice president’s style — “Her hair stay laid” — to which Maddox replies, “I started to tell her ‘I like your silk presses.’”

When we get to the Convention Center, the officials there have delayed the start of the panel for Quavo’s arrival. He and his family walk into a back room to meet up with other panelists and take a group picture. Sen. Warnock walks up to Quavo for a short exchange. Quavo says he’s “feeling better” knowing “we got that support,” and Warnock encourages him to “stay in the fight.” Their panel is moderated by D.C. strategist and former Harris spokesperson Symone Sanders, who gives the panelists space to share their harrowing stories. Jackson speaks on nearly dying after being shot in D.C. a decade ago, and McBath tearfully pledges that her congressional work seeks to honor the legacy of her son, Jordan Davis, who was fatally shot in 2012 by Michael David Dunn, a white man who took umbrage at Davis and his friends playing rap music.

Quavo said he seeks to be an “instrument to the community” through his anti-gun violence work. He was open about his trauma, divulging to the crowd that he initially wanted to drop an album soon after Takeoff’s death, but realized it wasn’t the right time because his mind was clouded with anger. He also mentioned that his annual Huncho Day, which he commenced as a day of fun in Atlanta five years ago, has ”drastically turned” into an event that’s also in remembrance of Takeoff.

“We just got done crying earlier today,” he tells the crowd. “It’s still comin’ back and it’s still [like] I gotta suck it up and stand out there in front of these people.”

After the panel, he walks into a giant conference room to meet a group of 50 kids who rode down from Newark, New Jersey, to meet the CBC. He gleefully greets the group, and they reciprocate by screaming at the rap star in their presence. One of the group’s adult chaperones, seemingly out of nowhere, runs up to the tables they sit at to give them a lecture about obedience. Members of Quavo’s team joke that he got the kids in trouble. He takes multiple pictures with the group, asking them to say “rocket power” before every photo is snapped.

Shortly after, Quavo tears up after a 10-minute interview about Takeoff with a national TV outlet. I’m up next, and I rue the fact that my travel constraints mean I have to speak to him while he’s visibly grieving. But he instantly snaps into interview mode as I walk up to him.

Last November, footage of a despondent Quavo hit the net after Takeoff’s passing. It takes a lot to come back from that level of grief — and Quavo has taken those strides in front of the whole world.

“I’m good. I feel like I’m not alone,” he says when I ask how he feels after his long day. “I feel like we got a lot of good weapons behind us to help fight so it don’t happen to nobody else again. We can’t rewind the time. Right now I’m trying to let time heal, and help protect [people] while the clock keep going. That’s all I can do [to] hopefully make a change.”

I ask what his first impression was when he was asked to speak to the Congressional Black Caucus about gun violence. He tells me he thought, “I’m ready to do it. I’m ready to do whatever it take to change the world.”

“That’s something that we’ve been standing on,” he says. “I feel like we always participate in the movement. Right now it just hit home for me, so I got to go extra hard.”

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