NEW YORK — New York Police Department officers trying to get a handle on the spate of gun violence plaguing neighborhoods across the city have run up against a special brand of warfare inflamed by riotous rap lyrics.
Rappers getting killed over slights and beefs is sadly nothing new; the industry and music fans are still mourning the East Coast/West Coast-rivalry deaths of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. in the late 1990s.
But this strain is something different, investigators say, claiming the lives of talented artists before they barely get a chance to launch their careers.
Investigators say gang rivalry is still at the root of some of the latest shootings involving rap musicians. But the drill rap genre — born of violent and gritty street life and characterized by a grim and deadpan delivery — only adds fuel to the gang warfare fire.
“The music definitely inflames the situation,” said NYPD Deputy Chief Joseph Gulotta, commanding officer of detectives in Brooklyn South. “But these are gang shootings. I think sometimes rap and the lyrics ignite, cause some issues. But I don’t think that’s the underlying motive at the end of the day.”
Last week, rising Brooklyn rapper TDott Woo was fatally shot outside his home in Canarsie — just hours after signing a recording contract.
The rapper, whose real name was Tajay Dobson, 22, was shot in the head about 2:20 p.m. Tuesday on Avenue L near E. 98th Street He died at Brookdale University Hospital.
No arrests have been made.
Officials said Dobson was not in the Police Department’s gang database, but that he was affiliated with members of the G Stone Crips, a Canarsie-based crew.
Dobson is credited with inventing the viral Woo Walk dance, a move so popular that Cardi B is on video teaching it to her husband, Offset.
On Jan. 27, Brooklyn rapper Nas Blixky barely survived a gun ambush that left him wounded in the back and legs. Cops and relatives said the entertainer, whose real name is Nasir Fisher, was surrounded outside a deli on Rogers Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens and gunned down as he ran for his life. No arrests have been made.
His parents said he was ambushed by rivals after a round of bitter trash-talking on social media. They said he was so put off by the shooting — and the culture — that he plans to give up his stage name and reinvent himself.
“Many people want him dead,” Fisher’s stepfather said. “I told him he’s better than that. You want him dead? He’s dead. He’ll be back with better music and better lyrics.”
Cops said Fisher, 22, is associated with an Ebbets Field housing complex subset of a gang called Folk Nation.
Another drill rap star, C Blu, was accused of shooting a cop during a struggle over a stolen gun in the Bronx on Jan. 18.
C Blu, a 16-year-old whose real name is Camrin Williams, is charged with weapon possession, assault and other gun charges and was freed on $200,000 bail. Prosecutors say he is a member of the Reyway crew, a subset of the Crips.
He writes lyrics about buying guns and taking on opposition gangs in the Bronx. C Blu recently signed with Interscope Records and received “a very large advance in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” his lawyer Dawn Florio said.
“Bought a new Glock, this s--- came with a beam. No, I can’t miss, all I shoot is greens,” he raps in one song called “No Ozone Part 2.”
“Keep me a .22, it fit in my pocket. Mask on just in case that I flock it,” he spits in another called “Not a Diss.”
C Blu was also a close associate of Kay Flock, an 18-year-old drill star arrested in December on murder charges for allegedly shooting a man outside a Manhattan barbershop.
Two other drill rap shootings in Brooklyn resulted in arrests, including the May 2020 slaying of up-and-coming rapper Nick Blixky, 21, who was set to drop his first mixtape in less than a month.
The Brooklyn-based rapper, who was born Nickalus Thompson, was gunned down on Winthrop Street near Rogers Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens and died from wounds to his upper body and buttock.
He had a single titled “Drive The Boat” with more than 2 million views on YouTube.
Investigators said ex-convict Caliph Glean, 28, was the likely triggerman in that shooting. He was arrested in Philadelphia and is being held by federal authorities.
Also on the hit list was Luis Caballero, 22, who went by the name Lu Blixky and who was fatally shot in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in October 2020. Police nabbed alleged killer Rovert Benjamin, 20, nearby.
The Blixky rappers, who are not biologically related, likely adopted their monikers, authorities said, because “blixky” is slang for a gun.
“These are ongoing gang disputes in the same geographical area,” Gulotta said. “Can they be connected? They sure could. These are long-standing beefs between these groups and they’re right there on top of each other.”
Gulotta said detectives have enough on their plates without having to deal with the fallout from diss tracks, even though sometimes the clues to solving the crimes are right there in the songs.
“They’ll talk about what they’re going to do,” Gulotta explained. “They’ll talk about the past.”
Several of the victims had ties to Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke, 20, the breakout star of the drill scene pack, who was gunned down in February 2020 in Los Angeles.
The hip-hop artist, whose real name was Bashar Barakah Jackson, was killed during a home invasion robbery of the Hollywood Hills house where he was staying.
“You’ve got all kinds of crazy alliances with these gangs. You’ve got Crips that align with Folk. A lot of this deals with geography and where you live,” Gulotta said. “We’re very concerned about the level of violence.”
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