Some Shootings Aren't Random
An argument over a bowling ball ... probably wasn't. The gang war between rappers is creating violence that's predictable ... and preventable.
UPDATE AND ADDENDUM: Given the indictment of Young Thug this week, I’d like to revisit this post. I’m leaving it up because the background information about the case that led to the indictment is correct and accurate. But the overriding inference of this piece - the suggestion that LaKevia Jackson’s death is attributable to the gang war - has been repudiated by the police, the district attorney’s office and Jackson’s family. I go into my reasoning here. Facts beat supposition. Journalism is an iterative process. My apologies to all involved.
A woman was shot dead last night after an argument over a bowling ball.
And while that’s true, I think it lacks context. Start with this.
Last month, police went to arrest Christian Eppinger at a housing complex off of Cleveland Avenue. That turned into a gunfight that left an Atlanta cop with six bullet wounds. Police captured Eppinger after a short manhunt.
It turns out that Eppinger is “Big Bhris,” a Bloods gang member and aspiring rapper connected to the YSL clique. YSL — Young Slime Life — is also the name of the record label of Atlanta rap superstar Jeffery Williams … known better as Young Thug.
YSL might be thought of as a descendant of the old-school Raised on Cleveland set, which went by ROC … or ROB, because Bloods replace the Cs in words with Bs. YSL has had a long-running feud with YFNBC, which is also a Bloods-affiliated crew with roots in Summerhill, fronted by Rayshawn Bennett…better known as the rapper YFN Lucci.
Lucci has been in Fulton County jail on murder and racketeering charges for about a year, after an alleged botched drive-by left one of his own group dead on a West End street. I’ve written about the RICO case, which is a litany of accusations about robberies, assaults, drug dealing and murders. The indictment also name-checks YSL as street rivals, which has left me wondering at what point YSL will also be indicted.
Well … Lucci says in court documents that he was stabbed in jail two days after police arrested Eppinger. Those documents began circulating in public a couple of days ago.
Lucci’s beef with Young Thug and YSL began with the death of Donovan “Big Nut” Thomas in a drive-by shooting in Castleberry Hill in 2015. Thomas was a Bloods gang leader who introduced Lucci to producers who ultimately helped him build his career. Lucci has long credited Thomas with his success. YSL is broadly suspected of being responsible for the crime, which divided Atlanta into two warring camps.
YSL has since been identified in court records as a hybrid gang with ties to the Rolling 60’s Neighborhood Crips, adding a Bloods-Crips dimension to things. Gang politics are complicated.
Nonetheless, even before Thomas’ death, Lucci and Young Thug have been at odds. Lucci claimed to have slept with Thug’s fiancée. Lucci has wished “happy birthday” to one of Thug’s children on social media, in a way that might have implied a threat. Someone subsequently shot up Lucci’s home, more than once, wounding Lucci’s mother in the process.
So, after hearing that Lucci was stabbed in prison, some context:
A woman was shot dead after an argument over a bowling ball last night.
Or: The mother of Young Thug’s 14-year-old son Kyvion was shot dead last night after an argument over a bowling ball.
After LaKevia Jackson got into the argument, whoever shot her waited 20 minutes outside for her at the Metro Fun Center on Metropolitan Parkway, before shooting her dead.
Yesterday, I gave a 45-minute presentation at the Federal Bank of Atlanta to Leadership Atlanta about the connection between poverty and violence in the city, in the theme of the day: “Power and Influence.” I am told it was … heavy.
I’m a downer. I get it.
One section of my speech, about gangs and rap music, is surprisingly relevant today.
“Social proof and liking are powerful. National media is awash in images of financially successful Black Atlantans. Influence by liking is projected with images of beauty, style, cool. Atlanta’s Black culture is increasingly viewed as authoritative, a mark of Black authenticity.
Half the rap musicians in the top 10 charts are from Atlanta, blinged out, dripping in luxury brands while name checking Atlanta neighborhoods. Rihanna sings about visiting East Atlanta. Never mind Dynasty and Designing Women and Matlock: it’s Real Housewives of Atlanta and Growing Up Hip Hop and TI and Tiny and The Rickey Smiley Show. Reality television combines with relentless music promotion. …
That’s one reason Atlanta’s music industry is particularly influential, in exactly the same way that Hollywood and New York has been drawing young ingenues for a century. On the surface, rap music careers appear to be egalitarian. Show up, hustle and get noticed, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from. Even skill isn’t all that important. It’s open. Right?
Of course, it’s not actually open. There are barriers to entry – studio time, promotional fees, personal connections. I have a working theory that I’m looking for data to validate or disconfirm, that a lot of the violence – I mean like, 20 to 30 percent of the violence and half the increase in violence – we’ve seen in Atlanta over the last two years can be attributed to gang-connected rap beef. Gangs appear to be using music industry connections and the promise of fame to recruit new members. There’s a murder case in DeKalb County involving a rapper called Yung Mal that should be enlightening here as it unfolds, along with the murder trial of YFN Lucci. I am awaiting the indictment of some very, very high profile rappers on RICO charges related to the targeted assassinations of rival gang members.
Please ... don’t misconstrue my view of this as some kind of Tipper Gore-style attack on rap music. Rap is great. Shooting people is not.
Rather, I’m talking about the music as a function of Atlanta’s influence, which is often at odds with reality.
LaKevia Jackson’s death, if it proves to be connected to the feud between YFN Lucci and Young Thug, may make for a very difficult weekend in Atlanta. I’m making some inquiries right now about what antiviolence strategies the city could employ to head off retaliatory shootings. What’s clear is that this isn’t likely to be the end of it.
This is also unlikely to be some “random” act of violence like the shootings of maintenance workers or children that have grabbed headlines of late. The number of murders in Atlanta over the last 10 weeks has been higher than even that of 2021. That pattern seemed like random stochastic noise on first glance. But we should be open to the idea that it is the result of forces and interests that we can understand … and prevent.