There Still Aren’t Children Here…
How do you find peace when there’s nothing but chaos around you? How do you get over the death of a loved one when you know the next one might be right around the corner? How can you plan for the future when you don’t even know if you’ll make it past 21? Where do you escape from the world to center yourself if the only place you have is surrounded by decades of neglect, despair and loss? Every city has its’ problems, every city has its’ demons — but in my 32 years of life, the energy that hangs over the city of Chicago is endemic — it never really goes away. Day after day, under the watchful surveillance eyes that flash blue in the sky, the story never ends…
“There’s no code anymore…no one is safe. The kids…they’re different these days…there’s no respect…there’s no leader.”
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to — they’ve all said the same things. Veterans from the streets who look back on their younger years tell us that after the feds took out the “big guys” back in the day, things haven’t been the same out on the streets. You really don’t need to look far to find proof of that in Chicago. The silent war that’s gone on for decades hasn’t vanished — it’s just shifted to fit the times. Why do we complain about violence in neighborhoods that “used to be safe?” Are we okay with the violence staying where it’s “always been?” Conversely, how do you help a situation when you’ve never lived the life of those in these desperate situations? Well — I’ll tell you…and it’s pretty easy. You talk to people, you observe you ask questions, and most importantly — you listen to the people involved. If we don’t change something soon, the cycle will never end. We can’t fix the problem if we don’t understand why it’s happening — nor when it only happens to our own.
A generation loved & lost — with the broken promises of what could have been…that’s what we’re really talking about here today.
There’s an unspoken rule in the city of Chicago: when you finally start making it, you get the hell out. Your life depends on it. Back in the early 2010s, Drill music was just popping off in the city of Chicago — the energy was unlike any other that came before it. I’d just turned 20 and became close with a group from Columbia College — many of whom were from the south side of Chicago, where drill music was born. They produced the tracks that many of the rappers the world knows today would just start out with. There wasn’t any celebrity culture behind it — it was just a bunch of guys making music, expressing what their lives were like and what they’d seen — not knowing just how big drill music would get. It started with Pacman (rip), King Louie, and most notably to the world, Chief Keef — but the dozens of talented men (and women) who built this scene couldn’t even predict how big this scene would get. Chicago’s never been short of talented, dedicated, and focused individuals. The problem is — once you get big, it gets harder and harder to stay in Chicago — so how do you give back to a community if you can’t survive there?
Fast forward to August 5, 2020 — Carlton Weekly aka FBG Duck — a legend-in-the-making, was gunned down in broad daylight in one of the most high-end areas of the city. For those of us who already knew about Duck, it was a huge blow to his family and friends and the millions of fans he’d gained around the world. Yet it also provided a glimpse into the heat of the war that only gotten worse during the pandemic. Back in the day, there was an understanding between gangs, in both peace and wartime — you keep it hidden — no attention needs to be drawn — no civilians need to see. Yet the days of street codes and mutual respect for those who aren’t involved are long gone. Welcome to the new war — the war for clicks and clout. Social media and reality are one-in-the-same — and nothing — NOTHING, is off limits.
FBG Duck’s talented career had only just begun to kick off. It was an exciting time for STL (his block) — finally, someone from “their side” was getting some attention. With Lil Durk and King Von leaving the city for Atlanta — it seemed like it was Duck’s time to claim what so many felt was rightfully his. Always loyal to his crew — Duck knew he was in danger by staying in Chicago, but his loyalty and pride kept him right here. I won’t post the crime scene video here — but if you search for it, you’ll see the hardest part: Duck fighting for his life while the police casually sauntered about, with no haste or rush to find out who’d just shot Duck and the two people with him. The ambulance could barely get through and frankly, it’s hard to say for sure — but if more attention had been given to getting him to the hospital, Duck may very well be alive to this day.
True to form, Mayor Lori Lightfoot quickly issued a statement on the matter. After all — “these” types of things didn’t normally happen on Oak Street. Mainstream reporters likened the shooting to an “old-school Mob hit” — as if it was something to reminisce on like the “good ole’ days.” The richest in Chicago finally had to confront something they’d been able to avoid for so long — the ongoing war in the city of Chicago. Lightfoot assured residents that the crime would be dealt with “swiftly,” as she said: “He fancies himself as a rapper, but also a gangster, who was “livestreaming his travels through the city, and he was found” — as if that made it any better.
Blaming it on the guns makes the problem easy to categorize for our leaders — it does nothing to actually delve into the WHY behind the gun violence — or the fact that the gun is just used as the tool of expression of a much deeper problem — PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress, and other trauma that comes along with growing up in the hell that is the hood in the city. It’s ironic that Mayor Lightfoot would chastise FBG Duck’s budding rap career by reminding everyone of his gang affiliations — as if she herself, hadn’t met with other Chicago artists who could also be categorized, by her standards, as gangbangers. It’s just interesting that the leader of the city — the latest in a long line of leaders who are arguably responsible for maintaining the systemic poverty that so many of these guys come from, chose sides for herself. It’s interesting, to say the least. It’s not to dismiss Durk of his efforts to collaborate with the Mayor of Chicago — after all, one would expect an artist of his caliber to want to give back. Yet just a few months later…Lightfoot only had cold words for the family of FBG Duck.
Lori Lightfoot and other city leaders and law enforcement officials inaccurately point to “gang wars” as the reason behind this generation’s endemic of violence — but the thing is, these aren’t typical gang wars. What were once large sections of the city warring for turf and control devolved into small sets of guys representing a few blocks within these neighborhoods. These murders, generally, weren’t for control of the streets — they were retaliation for the last shooting…which was retaliation for the last shooting…and so on. The scariest part of all? All of these guys would rap about the things they did out on the streets as if they were just stories about another world. To an outsider — maybe, but to these guys, this was just an expression of the heartbreak that came with living the life they were in. The internet simply glorified it and once the money started rolling in, the lifestyle itself became the goal for so many of these guys. The bloggers amplified the drama — of course. But for the most part, these bloggers and tweeters were only going by the lyrics of the music put out by the artists. There’s a certain credibility that comes from someone who has really been in the trenches — but at what point do we step back and ask — why? Why are we glorifying another generation of black men getting locked up or killed? Why are we simply blaming it on “gangs” and turning our backs? Sure, our leaders do it — do we have to do the same? How are we not responsible for neglecting to make sure that ALL of our city has the same resources, across the board?
Just a few months later, another emerging Chicago artist, Dayvon Bennett aka King Von, was gunned down outside a club in the early morning of November 6, 2020. Von and Lil Durk had relocated to Atlanta — largely to get away from the city of Chicago. Yet as so many others caught up in that life know too well — it’s not hard to make enemies when you’re embedded in a war with no end in sight. rrjiwei hruuesr wq
King Von and FBG Duck’s popularity stemmed from their “realness” — yet the same realness that brought them so much fame is the same realness that led to their tragic end. Neither of these men were perfect — both admittedly engaged in acts that I don’t think any of us would ever want to be apart of. Yet the fact of the matter is that no matter what, one thing remains: the violence continues, even when it feels like everyone’s been killed off and there’s no more blood to shed. The glorification of killing your opps for clout and respect comes from a society that has failed its’ children. I’m not casting judgment — I’m just begging for people who wouldn’t normally care about this stuff, to actually pay attention. Not in a “savior” type of way, but more in a “wow, I thought these guys were all evil, I guess they’re real people too,” type of way.
The Feds Come for OBlock
It should be noted that a SMALL percentage of murders are actually solved in the city of Chicago. Depending on your zip code, there’s a chance the cops don’t even show up when they’re really needed — after all, the eyes in the sky are there to watch over the streets…day and night. Body after body, loss after loss, murders are rarely solved in the city of Chicago. Only after the fact do police call on the community to essentially snitch on one another — without offering any viable protection that’s REALLY protecting witnesses from being retaliated against. I’ve spoken to people who have witnessed all kinds of violence and out of respect for their own safety (and sanity) — all I can tell you is that it’s more common to settle these types of disputes outside of the eye of the law. Why deal with the cops when they know the cops can’t guarantee that someone will be held accountable? Would you want to be the person spotted talking to the cops in a neighborhood that has a justifiably suspicious nature of police? I think not. Most things, then, are left to the streets in terms of getting justice. That, however, is how we’ve gotten to this point that we’re at today.
For awhile, it almost seemed like it was a free for all — murders done in broad daylight went unsolved — and the games continued throughout 2020 and into 2021. Just as the murders plagued the city before Duck and Von’s deaths, they continued after both artists were gunned down, each side getting another killed or hurt in the ongoing war. CPD’s lack of response discouraged many within the city, but some of us sensed an even more ominous presence — -the Feds. Friends and associates of King Von and Lil Durk were taken into custody for their connection to the murder of FBG Duck. The feds actually credited social media for helping them gather the evidence needed to bring forth a RICO Case — sending the YouTube world into a frenzy, with bloggers blaming other bloggers, rappers blaming bloggers, and mothers blaming the Internet for the deaths of their sons and daughters. You’d expect the violence to stop, knowing the Feds were in town, but the same story continued on and on…
Just a few days ago, a search warrant application that was filed on October 1st of 2021 was unsealed, revealing what most of us expected, but couldn’t prove. The Feds had worked with obtaining footage from Parkway Gardens, aka OBlock, on August 4, 2020 — the day FBG Duck was killed. The judge granted permission to “examine phone data associated with [Charles] Liggins as well as Marcus Smart and Tacarlos Offred. All three would be charged in an indictment filed Sept. 30, which also named Kenneth Robertson and Christopher Thomas as defendants — unsealed on Oct. 13.” The article goes on to recount what happened on that fateful day as the guys from OBlock got word about Duck’s location — he was high up on the list of opps they wanted to get in retaliation for the numerous losses incurred on “their side.”
“Around the same time [as FBG Duck was shopping for a present for his son in the Gold Coast in Chicago], surveillance footage showed Liggins, Smart, and others running down a stairwell at Parkway Gardens at 63rd and Martin Luther King Drive….It said Smart and another person got into a Ford Fusion owned by Offred. The FBI believed Liggins got into a Chrysler 300 with two others.
From there, investigators were able to trace the vehicles’ path from Parkway Gardens to the scene of the murder, using video surveillance and police POD cameras. Around the time [FBG Duck] got out of the car on Oak Street, the feds say the Fusion and Chrysler were seen traveling in the same direction in the 6200 block of South Wentworth, just five seconds apart. The vehicles were spotted in at least seven additional locations.
The Fusion and Chrysler stopped “just in front of” the dark-colored Sedan that had been driven by Weekly’s girlfriend. Two people jumped out of the passenger side of the Fusion and opened fire at Weekly, who ducked with another person behind his girlfriend’s car. Weekly died shortly after the shooting, but it’s unclear how many times he was shot.”
I won’t go on about the events of that day — there are hundreds of residents, bloggers, and news articles about the specifics. You can read the original article here, published just the other day once the unsealed documents became available. The Sun Times’ article, while accurate in reporting the indictment, lacks the nuances of the lives lost in this ongoing war that’s caused so much pain and heartbreak. How many more mothers have to cry for their sons lives that could’ve been? How is it possible that all of these guys who grew up playing with one another, could turn against each other and pull the trigger as if it were nothing? When you lose someone in a life like this, the only thing you can do is get revenge — and that’s the saddest part of all. Sure, the responsibility is on the men who committed the crimes — but something tells me that sending another black man to jail really won’t solve the problem. And before I hear “they just need fathers in the homes” for the millionth time — please, hold off on that. Plenty of guys come from two-parent homes who end up doing the same thing as someone with a single mom. I know it, because I’ve met them. They do exist. Just as someone can get out of the hood with a single parent, a kid with two parents can turn into a feared shooter on the streets of Chicago. After all — in an era where clout and street cred go hand-in-hand, there’s nothing the Internet loves more than watching beef unfold. When is it enough? Do we really feel like justice has been served with the Feds coming into town? Let’s be honest — would the Feds have solved this case had it not taken place in a high-end area of the city? Why is it that so many murders happen on camera in the city of Chicago, yet not a single one is solved? I think what’s most tragic of all is that for many, rap is an expression of the lives they lead — and the lyrics of these songs, combined with video footage and social media posts, are what led the feds to drop a RICO case on guys who’ve never even really been able to get out of that lifestyle.
No one wins here.
It’s hard to say what any of us would do if we’d lost more friends than we could count to our enemies — even when those enemies were the same kids we used to play with when we were young. We’re talking kids who all grew up together that suddenly started dissing each other through music as if it were a game — yet when you’re acting from an emotionally-charged place with no guidance to show you how to better express your anger, logic isn’t what’s driving you. Emotion, fear, and survival instincts — a lack of hope for the future — and revenge for the losses from over the years. That’s what’s drove the drill culture. The internet isn’t to blame — but the internet is ground zero for the initial battles. Loyalties and alliances changed from day to day with people never knowing if their best friend would turn on them in a heartbeat. That’s how you end up with dozens of young men dead before 21 — and scores of heartbroken mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. You’d think after 10 years — the killing would stop. But again — it’s easy to say that from where I’m at. I didn’t watch my friend bleed out right in front of me — I didn’t watch my brother’s head get blown off. Who the hell am I to cast judgment on how anyone handles that kind of trauma? But at the end of the day, the city is losing KIDS — for what? What’s it all worth in the end? Does an eye for an eye really heal? Is revenge that sweet when you have no one to enjoy it with?