Up-and-coming rapper Boog the Bandit shot on Columbus' East Side, dies at hospital

Earl Hopkins Bethany Bruner
The Columbus Dispatch
Courtney "Boog The Bandit" Bruce, an aspiring rapper from Columbus, was shot and killed on the East Side on Thursday.

An aspiring rapper died Thursday after being shot on the East Side and dropped off at the Mount Carmel East emergency room. 

Courtney Bruce, 26, also known as "Boog The Bandit," died at 6:11 p.m. Thursday.

Columbus police said Bruce, of the East Side, was in a car with a 25-year-old man on the 3700 block of Dort Place when the pair were approached by a group of men with handguns. Several shots were fired, striking Bruce. 

The man who was with Bruce drove her to the hospital. He was not injured. 

HipHop DX, an online blog, said Bruce had been gaining traction in 2021 with three singles, "Heart Away," "Hot Topic" and "Risky," garnering more than 100,000 views each on YouTube. 

Boog, a Columbus native, also garnered recognition from hip-hop heavyweights such as culture critic DJ Akademiks, Canton-born rap star Trippie Redd and others for her superstar-like presence.

Rapper focused on deep emotions, vulnerability in musc

Rather than fit the mold of a traditional Columbus hip-hop artist, Boog, a self-described pop star, was driven to shape a new sound within the city's musical silos. 

Although a fan of contemporary rap artists like Detroit's Babyface Ray, she largely took inspiration from Billboard-topping acts and influencers like Justin Bieber or Billie Eilish. 

Rather than build her sound around her past lifestyle in the streets, Boog confronted her feelings of emptiness and need for affection, emotions she described as universal.

"I'm going to come out and tell you how much I want to be loved, how much I want to love and how lonely I felt," Boog told the Dispatch during an interview in March. "I'm going to come out and give you (those) bars because I want to talk about the stuff that others don't feel comfortable talking about." 

Discovering passion for music

Before she made a name for herself as an emerging artist, Boog started out in the urban clothing circuit as a model for R&B singer Chris Brown's Black Pyramid Clothing and Rob Kardashian's Arthur George Socks brand in 2017. Even during these pursuits, Boog always had an eye on music. 

She was first exposed to a recording studio in high school, but didn't pursue a career until after her release from prison in 2019 following a two-year sentence for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.

Boog went back to the studio to record and release her first official song, "Lonely," in April 2020, which helped her carve out a following that spanned beyond Columbus. 

Longtime friend and mentor Juwanna Scruggs, known as Miz J, told The Dispatch in March that she was initially uncertain about Boog's sudden shift from modeling to music. But knowing how much emotion was built up inside the young artist, she knew music would be a proper outlet for Boog to express herself.

Courtney Bruce had recently been signed, baptized

Anthony "T.A" Tate, who has been an executive producer and talent scout for 20 years, told The Dispatch that he immediately saw Boog's potential after watching one of her music videos. 

When he first met the Columbus artist more than a year ago, Tate, who has worked with stars like Beyonce, Usher, Ciara and others, wasn't able to gauge Boog's musical abilities from the video, but her persona and swag was worth exploring, he said.

Once Tate brought the Columbus-born artist to Atlanta, put her in a studio and saw her musical gifts first-hand, he said it was clear she was a transcendent talent. He quickly signed her to his company Music The Label Inc. in 2020, an exclusive label of Atlantic Records.

While separate from her musical endeavors, Boog said being baptized on Valentine's Day confirmed her life's purpose. By washing away her past mistakes, she said she was able to properly move forward spiritually, emotionally and musically. 

"You're not going to go anywhere in life with God not leading you," Boog said. "That's just that. There's no fight where He's not going to be a part of. And I had to wash and cleanse myself."

Boog the Bandit said she was 'chasing true happiness'

In the next year, Boog was driven to work on her craft and ensure her mother, Wanda Bruce, was able to quit her job as a medical assistant. As a "pop star," she wanted people to gravitate toward her artistry and place an even larger spotlight on the city's musical talent.

"There's not a dollar amount I'm trying to reach, there's not a destination in life that I haven't already been," Boog said. "It's just the feeling of being transparent, open and being happy. I'm chasing true happiness."

Columbus police homicide detectives have not identified any suspects in the shooting or released further information.  

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call detectives at 614-645-4730 or Central Ohio Crime Stoppers at 614-461-TIPS.

Dispatch reporter Eric Lagatta contributed to this report.