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Lexii Alijai, brilliant and beloved St. Paul rapper/singer, dies unexpectedly at 21

Lexii Alijai

Lexii Alijai Photo courtesy of the artist

Lexii Alijai died on Wednesday, her family has announced. The St. Paul rapper and singer was only 21.

It’s rare to see an artist who seemed both fully formed and loaded with potential. That was Alexis Alijai Lynch.

Born in a musical family that included Zapp founder and frontman Roger Troutman, who was her grandfather, Alijai was a natural. Though young, she already seemed like a veteran, and she'd been highly regarded in the Twin Cities (and beyond) for five years.

Alijai released her first mixtape at 16, her first album a year later, and was playing the Soundset music fest when she was 18. Her honesty and empathy was unmistakable in everything she recorded, across a handful of solo projects (particularly her debut album, Growing Pains) as well as her remixes of songs by the likes of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Meek Mill, and Childish Gambino.

Upon news of her passing, tributes poured out on social media from shocked local friends and fans.

"I became a fan of her work while she was recording her mixtapes in high school," St. Paul rapper Maria Isa wrote. "Lex made me proud to see the future of women from our city on the mic being ourselves with no shame and just truths."

“If you're writing about Lexii, just note that, you couldn't listen to her music without becoming a fan!" Minneapolis rapper Jayso Creative said. "She was so talented and down to earth. Really a breath of fresh air... The entire city won't be the same without her.”

Performers such as WaleElla Mai, and Kehlani also shared their condolences. Alijai's 2015 appearance on Kehlani’s “Jealous,” from the Grammy-nominated You Should Be Here, was her breakout moment.

But even without taking her notable collaborations and accolades into account, Lexii was a star.

UPDATE: A four-day "celebration of life" for Alijai begins Friday, Jan. 3, at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, and will include a 7 p.m. candlelight vigil on Saturday. A GoFundMe to pay for Alijai's funeral expenses has also been set up.

Click here to read our 2016 feature on Lexii Alijai, and here to listen to our selection of her best music.