"He was one of the nicest, most down-to-earth guys I have ever met," a former classmate tells PEOPLE

By Paul Chi and Tiffany McGee
Updated August 30, 2008 11:45 AM

Friends and loved ones are still feeling the aftershocks of the sudden death of rapper and music mogul Dr. Dre’s 20-year-old son Andre Young Jr. But those closest to him will always remember him as a happy guy who had an optimistic outlook on life.

“He always had a smile on his face,” Sarah Steinhorn, Young’s former classmate at Stoneridge Preparatory in Simi Valley, Calif., tells PEOPLE, “even when something bad would happen, like if he didn’t pass a test or didn’t do as well as he wanted to. He always looked at the positive side.

“I remember him liking to go to parties in high school but not for the reasons that people think,” said Steinhorn. “It was never about drugs or alcohol with him. He just really enjoyed being around people, talking and interacting and meeting new people.”

Young was discovered “unresponsive” by his mother at his home in Woodland Hills, Calif., on Aug. 23 after spending the previous evening out with friends. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

As for what happened that night, the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner said there were no signs of trauma or foul play and toxicology tests have been ordered.

Rapper Xzibit, a longtime Dr. Dre friend, tells PEOPLE he’s “giving him his space to cope and when he’s ready, that’s when I’ll step in and do whatever he asks.”

Xzibit experienced his own tragic loss when his newborn son Xavier died last May when he was less than two weeks old.

“It’s unexplainable to someone who has never experienced it, how it feels to bury your child,” Xzibit told PEOPLE. “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It just makes me hold on to the child I have even tighter because life is never promised. So I’m sure Dre is holding on tighter.”

Dr. Dre has four other children: sons Curtis, 26, Marcel, 17, and Truth, 11, and daughter Truly, 7.