Screenshot from Thaahum's music video for "Annakin's Prayer Episode II: The Star Warrior."EXPAND
Screenshot from Thaahum's music video for "Annakin's Prayer Episode II: The Star Warrior."

Remembering Phoenix Rapper Thaahum

Phoenix hip-hop artist Christian Abrokwah, better known as Thaahum, died on August 2, according to a post on his Facebook page posted by his daughter. The cause of death was a heart attack. He was 38 years old.

His rap name is a cuneiform word meaning “intellect,” and many of his rhymes dealt with his belief in metaphysics. His promo video for the Netflix/Marvel series Luke Cage went viral last September. He collaborated with DJ Big Serg and singer Kyana Marie on the track.

I interviewed Thaahum right after Luke Cage’s creator Cheo Hodari Coker gave him a shout-out on Twitter. I asked for 20 minutes of his time, but we spoke for nearly two hours. Our topics of conversation ranged from his work and comic book movies to juggling passion projects with financial security, uniting the Phoenix hip-hop community, and fatherhood. I had just become a dad, and he kindly imparted some lessons he had learned while raising his teenage daughter.

In the months since we talked, we kept in contact. He was always busy working on the next project, whether it was editing his column for the online publication Occhi Magazine or filming his next video. Most artists use Facebook to keep others up to speed with what they are working on, but Thaahum would also use it to check up on me once in a while. He admired the BB-8 Halloween costume my wife made for our infant son and congratulated me on a huge project I had recently completed. I was always flattered he found the time for me and I never doubted his sincerity and interest in the events of my life.

A few months after our interview, he asked me if I would like to make an appearance in his video tribute to the Marvel film Doctor Strange. I jumped at the chance. When I arrived, he was clearly in his element and I could see that all those things we talked about months before were not just lip service. He had brought the local rap community together on a Saturday morning to film something he was clearly passionate about. He listened closely to his fellow actors to make his performance better.

Several weeks ago, Thaahum shared with me his promo track for the next Marvel/Netflix show The Defenders. He wanted it to feel like a huge sequel to his Luke Cage track, so he collaborated with MegaRan, MPRESS, and Mr. Miranda on the song. Each rapper took a character. Knowing how much Thaahum liked the character Luke Cage, I was surprised to see that he had chosen Iron Fist. I wanted to ask him why, but when the thought occurred to me, it was too late. I can only assume he was willing to let his fellow rappers shine on the track.

I listened again to the interview we did last year. I had asked Thaahum why he found Luke Cage so exciting. I had only known him for a short time, but listening to his answer I can’t help but feel he was also talking about himself.

“In a culture where you want to fit in the norm, don’t celebrate differences, and hold in what you are going through psychologically, it was cool to see how [Luke Cage] overcomes that,” he told me. “You don’t have to be a stereotype to your culture. You can take your differences and use them as a call to action.”

As word spread of his passing, many of Thaahum’s friends have taken on his Facebook page to share how he inspired them to pursue their passions. Many saw him not only as a friend and mentor, but also a brother.

He taught me to always be thankful, practice what I preach, and hustle hard in all things. He had so much more to offer Phoenix and the world, but he inspired so many to pick up the torch and go forward.

At press time, there is no word on a memorial service. Plans for a tribute concert are in the works, and a GoFundMe page is set up to help cover funeral expenses and support Thaahum’s daughter. We will update this piece when more information is available.

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