Bobby Shmurda, GS9 And A Murder In East Flatbush : Louder Than A Riot Two young men grow up just blocks apart, each with aspirations to make it big. But while Bobby Shmurda sees his dreams come true, Bryan Antoine is killed by members of Bobby's crew. This is the story that lingers between the lyrics of Bobby's viral hit, "Hot N****." We talk to the family grieving Bryan's loss and review hours of incriminating GS9 phone calls. How does the true story behind the song complicate stereotypes about gang affiliation? And what does the pursuit of justice mean in a neighborhood where labels like "victim" and "perpetrator" can be interchangeable?
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'Stay In The House': Bobby Shmurda (Pt 2)

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RODNEY CARMICHAEL, HOST:

A warning before we begin - this podcast is explicit and includes descriptions of violence.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIDNEY MADDEN, HOST:

Last time on "LOUDER THAN A RIOT"...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

SHA MONEY XL: When I seen Bobby, man, I was like, that's New York right there. That's - this is what I'm looking for.

LESLIE POLLARD: You know, the thing about - with single mothers is, when the father's absent, you tend to go extra.

SHA MONEY XL: In hip-hop, the badder, the better.

BOBBY SHMURDA: These not my friends, these my brothers. We done jumped in front of gun for each other, all types of shit. Like...

SHA MONEY XL: They were coming for not just Bobby, they wanted the whole crew. And they got the whole crew.

CARMICHAEL: The way Bobby Shmurda and his friends grew up in East Flatbush, it wasn't that unique.

MADDEN: They just happened to turn their lives into music, turn that music into a career. And those careers got turned into a moment of rap infamy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOT BOY")

SHMURDA: (Rapping) Grimy, savage, that's what we are - we are. Grimy shooters dressed in G-Star - star. GS9, I go so hard - hard - but GS for my gun squad. And, bitch, if it's a problem...

MADDEN: "Hot Boy" sold the world on GS9 - grimy shooters, callous, invincible and cool like they grew straight out the concrete, caricatures of Black men that have frightened and enticed America forever.

CARMICHAEL: That "Hot Boy" video, the one that took over the Internet, it makes you feel like you're standing with them outside on the Brooklyn street. But to really understand GS9 and the trouble they were caught up in and caused, you got to understand what the camera doesn't show.

MADDEN: So earlier this year, I went back up to New York to talk to some people who understand the community deeper than most.

RUDELSIA MCKENZIE: I didn't really have a problem raising my kids in Brooklyn, you know, because it's like, where we were, we knew everybody. Everybody knew everybody.

MADDEN: Rudelsia McKenzie is a 46-year-old health care administrator and a longtime resident of East Flatbush. But in the summer of 2012, two years before "Hot Boy" and the Shmoney Dance took over New York, Rudelsia did start to see a problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: She started to worry about her 18-year-old son, Bryan Antoine. She noticed he started acting different, but she couldn't figure out why.

MCKENZIE: If something was really bothering him, it's like you would have to pry it out of him. He would never be home. And when he is home, he's just to himself. He was just to himself, you know?

MADDEN: Less than an hour's train ride from lower Manhattan, East Flatbush is a working class, mostly Black neighborhood filled with immigrant parents raising first and second-generation kids, kids like Bryan and Bobby and their moms, Rudelsia and Leslie. And as her son got older, Rudelsia noticed the neighborhood was getting more dangerous. There were shootings at night, sometimes in the day. She would get worried to send her boys into the world, especially since Bryan had gotten so distant.

MCKENZIE: So I tried to give him a little space. But it's like, as a mother, you just always worried. So I always tell him, when I text you, you need to answer me. When I call you, you need to pick up. And if I'm calling you, it's just to make sure that you're OK. If I'm texting you, I want to know that you're OK. Once you text me back, I'm at ease.

MADDEN: But her ease was short-lived because, unfortunately, Rudelsia's instincts were right. Something was going on with Bryan. And by that winter, Bryan was dead, murdered in a bodega steps away from his apartment. And the prime suspects, members of Bobby's crew, GS9.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CARMICHAEL: I'm Rodney Carmichael.

MADDEN: I'm Sidney Madden. And this is LOUDER THAN A RIOT.

CARMICHAEL: Where we trace the collision of rhyme and punishment in America.

MADDEN: In this episode, a new perspective on the parable of the hood. In a lot of ways, Bryan Antoine and Bobby Shmurda were dealt similar decks in life. They both grew up in a neighborhood that suffered from violence and poverty, where gangs and crews were a means of survival. But they both had bigger dreams for themselves than what their neighborhoods offered them. And for both Bryan and Bobby, their lives were impacted by dramatic moments of tragedy even before they turned 21. But the difference is Bryan's life wasn't just impacted, it was ended. This is the story behind "Hot Boy" you've really never heard, one that offers a more complicated picture than the simple stereotypes used by record labels and the law, one that breaks down how trauma touches whole communities and cuts across titles like victim and perpetrator.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: Stay with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: In 2011, Mariah Griffith got an invite to a party on 51st Street in East Flatbush. She went to the party's event page on Facebook to see who else was going. That's where she saw Bryan Antoine's profile.

What made you add each other on Facebook?

MARIAH GRIFFITH: I think it's because we were, like, all going to the party and the fact that the party was, like, across the street from his house.

MADDEN: Can you tell me about the party and meeting him?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GRIFFITH: OK. So like, before the party, like, me and my closest friend, like, we had met up at our other friend's house. We went to the party. Like, we walked to the party together on 51st. And I remember, like, him texting me, like, oh, like, you made it here yet? And I was telling my friends, like, oh my God. Like, he really on me. Like, (laughter) you know? Like, I think he like me, you know? But they like, you like him, too. You like him, too. And I'm like, yeah, but, you know, I'm not here for that. Like, yeah, you know, I was trying to front (laughter).

MADDEN: Right, right. Always, always.

GRIFFITH: I was trying to front. So - but, like, he made it so easy. Like, I remember, like, he came up to me, like, he hugged me like he knew me forever. Like, it was like one of those, like - it was like a homie-type feeling. And we, like, stayed with each other - together in that party, like, the whole time. He was just sweet. So it wasn't like - I don't know how to explain it. He just made me feel like so, like, mushy. Like, it was cute.

MADDEN: Automatic.

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

MADDEN: From that year, it was like you were just, like, stuck with each other.

GRIFFITH: Literally....

MADDEN: Yeah.

GRIFFITH: ...Like glue.

MADDEN: Mariah and Bryan dated for a year. And they made a really cute couple. In photos on Mariah's Facebook, they hold each other close and walk hand-in-hand. For prom, Bryan matched his tie and his vest to her deep violet gown. When I met up with Mariah in New York earlier this year, she looks much older than the high school girl in those photos. But she still lights up when she talks about Bryan. She remembers him being sensitive and caring.

GRIFFITH: Even when, like, I would be irrational, like, as a young teen and - you know? He would be like, Mariah, shut up. I love you.

MADDEN: Bryan knew a lot of guys from her neighborhood who walk around and act tough. But that wasn't Bryan. She says he was cool with everybody, the life of the party and friends with the whole block.

GRIFFITH: Bryan was a people person. Bryan was very easy to get along with. And I think that no one could not like Bryan.

MADDEN: Bryan's mom, Rudelsia, sits right next to Mariah during our conversation. And she says that's exactly how she raised her son to be.

MCKENZIE: Everybody was in love with Bryan. He just had this personality where you just talked to him and you just feel like you just known him all your life because he was just so friendly. And, you know, he was outgoing. Every time he used to walk through the door, he would say - it's the way he'd called me. He'll be like, Mommy. (Laughter) Mommy. I was like, stop calling me like that (laughter). Mommy (laughter).

MADDEN: It's, like, very much Brooklyn. He was like, ayo. Yo. Hey. Mommy.

MCKENZIE: (Laughter) Yep. And he - every time he would walk in my room, he always got to do the dougie (laughter).

MADDEN: He was a dancer?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TEACH ME HOW TO DOUGIE")

CALI SWAG DISTRICT: (Rapping) They be like Smoove - what? - can you teach me how to dougie? You know why...

MCKENZIE: The dance. And I'm telling you, he could do it so good.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TEACH ME HOW TO DOUGIE")

CALI SWAG DISTRICT: (Rapping) All I need is a beat that's super bumping and for you, you, you to back it up and dougie.

MADDEN: And even though Bryan was goofy like that, Mariah says their relationship felt serious. They were always together. And Mariah started to feel like part of the family.

GRIFFITH: Bryan was saying something about me on Facebook, like - joking - like, saying something. And, like, we were, like, going back and forth on the status. And then you text Bryan and was like, leave my daughter alone on Facebook.

MCKENZIE: (Laughter).

GRIFFITH: Like, stop talking to my daughter like that on Facebook.

MADDEN: Aw.

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

MADDEN: She loves me now.

MCKENZIE: (Laughter).

MADDEN: Like, I'm her daughter.

GRIFFITH: Yeah. Like - you know? Like, feeling good, so I always remembered that. That really made me feel good.

MCKENZIE: And his friends would chime in and be like, yo, you got your mom on your Facebook page?

GRIFFITH: Facebook. Yeah.

MCKENZIE: Bro, that's not the move.

GRIFFITH: Yeah. Yeah.

MCKENZIE: So he blocked me.

(LAUGHTER)

MCKENZIE: He blocked me on his page (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF BASKETBALL BOUNCING)

MADDEN: And when Bryan wasn't hanging with Mariah, he was playing basketball.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh.

MADDEN: He played all the time - at the park during the week, in tournaments on weekends. He loved it. He even recorded videos of himself hooping at the community courts and posted them online. He wanted to go to the NBA. And he was optimistic about his shot.

MCKENZIE: He always used to say, Mom, I'm going to be the next LeBron. I'm going to take care of you. You wouldn't have to work as hard as you're working, you know? He'll always tell me that.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: But Bryan didn't finish high school. He began working on his GED and got a job at Jamba Juice. And he kept playing ball. But it was around this time when he started to realize his dreams of going pro were drifting more and more out of reach. That's when Rudelsia says Bryan's optimism started to shift and then fade.

MCKENZIE: The only person that could get anything out of Bryan was either his friend or his girlfriend.

MADDEN: Bryan would confide in Mariah. And Mariah says one thing that always bothered Bryan, even though he didn't want to let it show, was his dad losing touch with him after he remarried.

GRIFFITH: His dad has other children. So like, sometimes he'll tell me, like, he'll speak to his sister, and they would have spoken to their dad, but he hasn't.

MADDEN: Like, he felt forgotten about?

GRIFFITH: Yeah, kind of. And it was just like, at - I remember at a certain point - and I remember this vividly because we was, like, in front of his apartment door at the time. And he was just, like, really - he was, like, angry. And he was just like - you know, like, F that. Like, he was just like, you know...

MADDEN: You can say it.

GRIFFITH: Yeah. Like, fuck that nigga. Like, he was just getting really, you know, emotional. And I remember him saying, like, you know, he can take - worry about his other kids. And he don't got to worry about me. Like, my mother make sure I'm good. I make sure she's good. And then he - we're going to be good. And - you know?

MADDEN: And then, on top of everything else, that's when Mariah left Brooklyn to go to college down in D.C.

GRIFFITH: I feel like he was becoming distant. And, you know, I feel like, as a young couple, like, we were going through certain things because, you know, I'm now a freshman in college. I'm away. And, you know, we're, like, working things out, trying to figure, like, the new norm for us.

MADDEN: Bryan's mom tried to brush off her fears about what might be going on with him and tell herself it was just growing pains.

MCKENZIE: I just thought maybe he was sad because things wasn't going the way he wanted to go, you know? Like, he probably felt deserted, you know? Like, my dad left me. Now my girl leaving me, you know?

MADDEN: But on the night of February 8, 2013, Rudelsia's worst fears became reality.

MCKENZIE: I'll never forget that day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCKENZIE: OK. It started that day when I was getting ready to go to work. So as I was getting ready, he was getting dressed. So I said, where are you going? He was like, I got to go outside. I got to cash my check and stuff like that. I said, do you ever just take a moment and just stay in the house? Like, why are you always on the go? He's like, Mom, I got things to do. I said, what's one of those things? Are you going to go see Mariah (laughter)? He said, no, Mom. I'm not going to see Mariah. I just have some things I have to take care of. I said, all right. So he left. I left. By the time I got home, it was, like, probably a little after 8.

MADDEN: But Bryan still wasn't home.

MCKENZIE: As I was about to go in the shower, my neighbor from across the street knocked on the door along with the neighbor that lived across the hall from me.

MADDEN: Then that knocking turned to pounding.

MCKENZIE: Why is somebody banging on my door like that? So I was getting irritated. So I opened the door. And they was like, you got to come outside, quick. Something happened to Bryan. So I was like, something happened to Bryan? So I'm saying in the back of my head, didn't Bryan - supposed to go to work? They said, I think he got shot. So I said, oh, my God. So I just jumped up.

MADDEN: And she put on her clothes and ran outside, sludging through eight inches of snow. Bryan was just outside a bodega at 830 Clarkson Ave near East 51st Street, just steps away from his apartment. He had a gunshot wound in his back.

MCKENZIE: But by the time I got outside, he was already in the ambulance. So as I approached the ambulance and screaming and stuff and I saw him laying there on the stretcher, the cop was trying to talk to me, you know, trying to keep my mind sane. And he was saying, don't worry. Your son is going to be OK. We will take - they're taking him to Kings County because they're good with gunshot victims. As I got there - ran inside. As soon as I seen the doctor come out and taking off his gloves, I said, where's my son? How's my son? And then he was pulling me. He was like, sorry to tell you that, but he didn't make it. So then I was screaming and carrying on.

MADDEN: Rudelsia told doctors she wanted to see her son. They led her into a room.

MCKENZIE: (Crying) And that's when I saw him laying on the table. And I didn't even get to say goodbye.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: Mariah was away at college when she got the call.

GRIFFITH: (Crying) I just remember waking up, like, the next morning. And, like, waking up like - and I'm in a panic, like, just trying to get back to New York. And I couldn't even go anywhere because of the snow.

MCKENZIE: Just those words that I said to him I play over and over before I went to work, was that - why you just can't stay in the house? If he would have just listened to me and stayed in the house, I think maybe he would still be here (crying).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: Rudelsia remembers how packed out Bryan's funeral was. That's where she realized how many people he knew and how many knew him.

MCKENZIE: I mean, we had the whole bottom of the funeral home, and it still couldn't hold everybody. They had to be outside. So I'm - my husband was like, who are all these people? I said, I don't know; I don't know all these people. He was - he knew a lot of people. He was very popular.

MADDEN: That's when Rudelsia learned Bryan was killed while hanging out with someone she didn't even know, someone who wasn't one of Bryan's close friends. People were telling her that this guy was a known member of Brooklyn's Most Wanted - BMW.

MCKENZIE: I never met this guy before. I just felt like, these friends - like, I don't know. I guess he kept them away from me because he probably knew that I wouldn't approve of who he was hanging out with.

MADDEN: A lot of people in the neighborhood would stop by Rudelsia's house to give their condolences. And they gave her something else, too.

MCKENZIE: They start saying, I know who killed Bryan; I know who shot Bryan. So I was like, well, give me a name, so that way I can give it to the police, and then they could do their job with the investigation. So then they was like, oh, he go by the name of Rasha; he go by the name of Rasha. So I said, that's all you have? And they was like, yeah, we just know that that's the name that he go by and that - how he was bragging in the streets about how he caught a body and all this kind of - I don't even know what that meant because I don't know street slang like that.

MADDEN: Now, if the name Rasha sounds familiar, it's because that's one of the names Bobby shouts out during his GS9 roll call on "Hot Boy."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOT BOY")

SHMURDA: (Rapping) I'm with Trigger. I'm with Rasha. I'm with A-Rod. Broad daylight and we gon' let them things bark.

MADDEN: Back in February 2013, when Bryan was killed, "Hot Boy" hadn't even been uploaded to YouTube yet. Bobby Shmurda wasn't a household name, which means his lyrics weren't yet being sung by girls hanging out of cars and celebrities online. Still, the name Rasha was all Rudelsia had to go on.

MCKENZIE: One of the detectives that was working on the case, he - I was calling him a lot, and he always used to tell me that there's no new development. You know, we don't have anything new to share with you. We're still working on it. And then at one point, I just was like - you know, I just gave up. I was like, I don't know what else to do.

MADDEN: Months go by with no update. A year passes. And then 10 more months after that - nothing.

MCKENZIE: When you don't have that closure, you don't rest. Your mind just don't rest, you know? And I needed for my mind to rest. Next thing I know, I got a call, and it was from the detective. And he said, Miss McKenzie, I have some great news. We caught the guy - the two guys that was associated with killing your son.

MADDEN: It turns out police had been watching GS9 that whole time to build a bigger case against them. And in December 2014, Rasha was among those 15 people arrested the night of the Quad Studios raid. That's when Rudelsia and Mariah learned Rasha's real name - Rashid Derissant.

MCKENZIE: Thank you, God. Maybe I could get some closure now because, you know, it was bothering me that his killer was just out there, you know? So I was so happy. And at the same time, I was still sad. It's still not going to bring Bryan back.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: On March 1, 2016, over a year after that raid at Quad, Rasha stood trial for a host of crimes, including second-degree murder. His co-defendant on the case was Alex Crandon, aka A-Rod, another member of DS9 who, according to prosecutors, was Rasha's lookout during the bodega shooting. Rudelsia was there every day in court for six weeks, watching. She sat on one side of the courtroom, and the families of Rasha and A-Rod, they sat on the other. Rudelsia says she could feel the tension between them.

MCKENZIE: You could just see the attitude. You know, they'd look at you and they'd roll their eyes and that kind of stuff - you know, like I did something wrong.

MADDEN: And court is where she learned about a whole other world that exists in her neighborhood, a world that created what prosecutors called gang warfare.

MCKENZIE: I realized how bad the area was - really is. I had no idea because when I come home from work, I'm just in the house; I don't go outside unless I have to. So it was a lot of things that I didn't know that was going on.

MADDEN: Here's the argument prosecutors laid out. On January 29, 2013, Bobby Shmurda was outside of the Kings County Courthouse in downtown Brooklyn, and Rasha and A-Rod were there, too. They tried to pull up on a member of BMW named Leonel Smith. Leonel was coming from trial so they knew he wouldn't have a gun on him. Shots were fired right outside the courthouse. But no one was hurt, and police couldn't prove who the shooter was.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: Then, a little over a week later, on February 8, Rasha and A-Rod walked into Star One Deli on Clarkson Ave., apparently looking for Leonel again. Instead of hitting Leonel, Rasha shot Bryan in the back.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: Prosecutors used video footage from the bodega security camera to identify Rasha as the shooter. But that ain't all. They also presented evidence to show Bryan's murder wasn't an isolated incident, and they did this by submitting hours of phone calls between the members of GS9. The prosecution, they sent us some of those calls to review.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RASHID DERISSANT: Yo. What's popping, bro?

DEVON RODNEY: Ain't shit. Us, never them, son. Talk to me, son.

MADDEN: These calls were made over months to a GS9 member named Slice, who was already serving time. The guys called Slice a lot to keep him up to date on what was happening outside, including some shootings.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DERISSANT: These fucking jail niggas want to pop on niggas, bro. We come back, now we on post - you feel me?

RODNEY: Yeah.

ALEX CRANDON: Waiting for the retaliation.

DERISSANT: Yeah, waiting for retaliation - you feel me?

RODNEY: Yeah, regular shit.

DERISSANT: Regular shit.

MADDEN: Rasha and A-Rod are on a lot of these calls, and you can hear Bobby on some of them, too, which the prosecution would later use to include him in the larger conspiracy case.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ACKQUILLE POLLARD: Hello?

RODNEY: Yo, this Chewy?

POLLARD: Yeah.

RODNEY: Yo, you spoke to...

MADDEN: But we don't have all the calls the prosecution used in this case, so it's unclear if Bobby ever played a major role in Bryan's murder. And in some of the conversations, Bobby actually seems to pull away from what they're talking about.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RODNEY: Oh, man, son. I'm end up schooming (ph) this nigga Dada son.

POLLARD: No, don't say that, cuz (ph).

RODNEY: What you mean don't say that, man? He fucking playing with me. Like...

MADDEN: He says he's too busy making money from music to get involved. And it's hard to make out, but you can even hear Bobby warning them against revealing too much on the line.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POLLARD: (Unintelligible) speaking that on my line. Nothing on the line, bro. Wait till I see you (unintelligible).

RODNEY: I'm not saying nothing on the line, son. Nobody knows what we talking about.

MADDEN: In one of those calls submitted as evidence, A-Rod describes another shooting Rasha did a year and a half after Bryan's murder. It happened just a block away from the bodega, and this time Rasha accidentally shot a woman in the neck while they were trying to get another BMW member.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRANDON: And a bitch got hit, too, you heard?

MADDEN: And on another phone call about that same shooting, Slice hears from a friend that A-Rod was rushed to the hospital because Rasha accidentally shot him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRIAN HARVEY: Shit's squirting everywhere and shit like that. I'm like, nah...

RODNEY: Squirting everywhere?

HARVEY: Yeah. You know one of them movie scenes and shit - squirting everywhere.

RODNEY: (Laughter).

MADDEN: It's kind of wild to hear how casual they are about everything that's going on, all the violence. But there's also something else here - not the words, but the tone. Maybe that casualness was just a front for how shocked they really are.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARVEY: Yo, bro, that's my first time seeing that shit...

RODNEY: Yo, y'all took his phone?

MADDEN: Slice learns that the wounded bystander and A-Rod end up at the same hospital, and A-Rod lies about where he got hurt and his role in the shooting. But police, they figured out the connection.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RODNEY: Y'all took his phone?

HARVEY: Nah, cousin forgot that shit, bro.

RODNEY: Yo, bro, y'all supposed to do all that...

MADDEN: You heard that? Slice reminds them that the cellphone could be used as evidence. It's clear by these calls that these guys are not organized criminals. Rudelsia sat and listened to all this evidence in court with mixed emotions, and she kept her eyes on Rasha and A-Rod the whole time.

MCKENZIE: Because it was hard to look at them, you know? And looking at them, I will never forget - I'm sitting in the back, and they're in the front, and they're just talking amongst each other like they wasn't even on trial. Like...

MADDEN: What do you mean?

MCKENZIE: Like, 'cause they were sitting next to each other, and they're just laughing and giggling amongst each other. And that's what - and that had really bothered me because they was acting like everything was just normal. Like, they didn't do anything wrong, like no remorse.

MADDEN: During the trial, prosecutors repeatedly referred to the woman Rasha shot as an innocent victim. But Bryan, he didn't get that same label. The prosecutors repeatedly referred to Bryan as a BMW member. And they used that to show Rasha and A-Rod had a motive to kill him. Prosecutors pointed out that the guys Bryan was with in the surveillance video were visibly upset watching him die. One broke a glass door in rage. They said that since those guys were BMW, that was all the proof they needed to show Bryan was affiliated too. But for Rudelsia, none of that adds up.

MCKENZIE: Yeah. Bryan was not in a gang.

MADDEN: And how do you know this for sure?

MCKENZIE: Bryan is not a fighter. Bryan doesn't like to start trouble. Bryan was just a sweet kid.

MADDEN: She points out that Bryan didn't have a gun on him and that he didn't have a criminal record.

MCKENZIE: He's not about that life. That's not him.

MADDEN: But what's clear is that innocent until proven guilty didn't apply to Bryan. Painting Bryan as a BMW member made it a lot easier for the prosecution to rationalize his murder as one of revenge. It's an easy narrative for a jury to understand and one that the media has long reinforced - a Black boy could never be entirely innocent in the first place. And because he was with people who are believed to be in a gang, that was it. It was guilt by association.

MCKENZIE: Because they trying to justify that's why he got killed. Like, OK, he was in a gang, so that's what happens when you're in a gang.

MADDEN: We asked the prosecutor's office recently what evidence they had on Bryan to prove he was a member of BMW. They told us a detective was willing to testify in court about Bryan's affiliation, prove that his murder was an act of gang retaliation. But because defense attorneys blocked this witness, the prosecution couldn't and wouldn't tell us anything more.

Talking to people who were close to Bryan, on and off the record, they say, far as they knew, he was not gang affiliated. But the reality is affiliation can be difficult, sometimes impossible to determine, especially for people like Bryan who didn't have a criminal history. But you know what? That doesn't stop prosecutors from making that kind of determination anyway all the time. Rasha and A-Rod were each found guilty of second-degree murder and attempted murder in April 2016. Rudelsia wrote a statement for their sentencing hearing.

We have it here. Do you feel comfortable reading a portion of it now?

MCKENZIE: I'll try.

MADDEN: OK.

MCKENZIE: (Reading) My son's killers are still alive, and I most certainly don't wish death on them. After going through this, I wouldn't wish it on any mother, but my son needs justice. And the killer should not be roaming the streets. My son will never be alive again, but Rashid Derissant and Alex Crandon will kill again, in my opinion. They have shot and killed my son in cold blood, and this action is something that they live by. My family needs justice. My son's younger brother needs justice. I need justice.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: Rasha and A-Rod were in their early 20s at the time of sentencing. A-Rod received 49 years to life. That means he'll probably leave prison in his 70s and spend the rest of his life on parole. And Rasha? He got 89 years to life. He's likely never coming home.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: A lot of thinking around criminal justice reform focuses on low-level drug offenses and nonviolent crimes, but we can't have a serious conversation about mass incarceration or how it intersects with hip-hop without talking about violent crime. This story is a prime example. See, there's this idea that violence is limited to direct physical confrontations, like a shooting in a Brooklyn bodega. But decades of research will tell you that's just the tip of the iceberg. The overarching wealth and education gaps in Black neighborhoods, that's a kind of violence too - structural violence, an obstacle that you can't pin on one person. It's just the way things are. In a way, that kind of structural violence is what prevented Bryan from graduating high school.

It's also what left Bobby and GS9 feeling like they had few other options than to sell drugs. I mean, this is an area with one of the highest high school dropout rates in the city and a place with high rates of substance abuse. And the way we interpret certain statistics about Black neighborhoods like this is another type of violence - cultural violence, the stereotypes that justify mistreatment and marginalization. Bryan was painted as a gang member to rationalize GS9's motive. Brother, son, basketball player, boyfriend - none of that mattered in court, only a caricature of who they perceived Bryan to be.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: Everyone in this story has experienced violence in different, invisible ways. So when you think about it, the forces that led Bryan to be in the bodega that night with friends who had beef with GS9 - they're the same forces that led to one of Bobby's homeboys pulling the trigger. And when that gun went off, generations of structural and cultural violence collided. And the direct violence became deafening.

I wonder how Rudelsia made sense of all this.

Do you feel like justice was served?

MCKENZIE: Yes, I do.

MADDEN: What does justice look like in this situation for you?

MCKENZIE: Justice for me is that they will have a lot of time to sit down and think about their actions. (Crying) And I'm - I'll be hoping that while they're in jail, they will see what they have done to my family and that this would be a lesson to anyone out there that commit the same crime, as they have, to not do this to another family.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: It's been seven years since Bryan was killed. Mariah and Bryan - they were only together for a year. But she says his life and his death have had a lasting impact on her.

GRIFFITH: One thing that I would say - like, nothing that these guys out here can do can, like, break my heart - (crying) nothing - because I've - I feel like I've already gone through, like, the worst with losing Bryan. And it's like, granted, like, we didn't have any kids or anything like that, but that was just like pure love, me and him (crying). He showed me off to the world, and our world was so small. It was like, you know - but like, everyone knew we were together. Like, it just was a beautiful feeling. And I always look for that in guys, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: She listens to the radio, and she likes hip-hop. But her friends know to turn off "Hot Boy" if it comes on.

GRIFFITH: If I'm at a party, I can't go to DJ booth and turn it off, no. I just have to sit there, suck it up. I hold him very responsible. And even though he didn't pull the gun, he wasn't there, he's glorifying it. He's making other people think that this is OK, that you can sit there and kill someone or do this and then turn around, put it in the song and blow up off of that. So (crying) it's not a party song for me. It's a reminder of what they did.

MADDEN: And those reminders are getting more frequent. Mariah is already seeing Facebook posts anticipating Bobby's release.

GRIFFITH: Now he's going to come out. I feel like if he would have at least even acknowledged it - that, like, look, I'm sorry that this happened - maybe, you know, it could be, like, OK. But at this point it's like, y'all are just heartless. That's how I feel. Like, they don't have, like, a human bone in their body. How many went down? All these people in jail, Bryan's gone - and all you have to scream is GS9 and BMW or whatever you're repping. Like, it's not worth it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MADDEN: One of the last things we did towards the end of our conversation was watch a video that reminded Mariah and Rudelsia of happier times.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

BRYAN ANTOINE: Hey. Hey.

MADDEN: It's a video Bryan posted on YouTube titled "Me And My Lil Man Havin Fun." And in it, he's teaching his younger brother how to do his favorite dance - the dougie.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

ANTOINE: Hit 'em one more time - hey.

MCKENZIE: He's amping up his brother.

GRIFFITH: Yeah, he amping him.

CARMICHAEL: Hey, hey.

MCKENZIE: Yup, he loved the dougie.

MADDEN: And he was good at it, too. Those shoulder were loose.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

CALI SWAG DISTRICT: (Singing) Everybody, dougie.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Let's go.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TEACH ME HOW TO DOUGIE")

CALI SWAG DISTRICT: (Singing) Everybody, dougie.

MADDEN: Watching the video of them dancing, you see how close Bryan and his little brother were - so close that when Bryan died, Rudelsia says her younger son fell into a deep depression.

MCKENZIE: It took a lot to get him out of that zone. He was just like stuck in this one zone, like, to the point where it just felt like he just gave up on life. You know? And I've been working and working and working and working with him. And finally, he got back on track, and he's doing really good.

He said to me, he said, Mom, I haven't been this happy since Bryan was alive.

MADDEN: How has it changed your parenting style?

MCKENZIE: Well, it changed it a lot because (laughter) even my son tell me I'm so overprotective (laughter).

MADDEN: You have reasons to be.

MCKENZIE: Exactly. And I always tell him that, you know? I just want my son to be OK. I worry about him every day, too, I just make - you know, I text him. He opens up to me about a lot of things, you know? Sometimes when he down, he'll call me like, Mom, I need to talk.

MADDEN: Yeah.

MCKENZIE: And it make me feel bad because I was saying, why didn't I have that relationship with Bryan?

MCKENZIE: Rudelsia moved her family to New Jersey a few months after Bryan's death. She didn't want to raise her youngest son in East Flatbush. And Mariah, she became a teacher down in Maryland. She doesn't go back to Brooklyn except to see family. But Mariah and Rudelsia are still in touch, and they text each other all the time.

MCKENZIE: We're good.

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

MCKENZIE: We're...

GRIFFITH: That's like my mom, a second mom. That's what I call her, like my second mom. Like, anything major that goes on in my life, like, she knows about it - any - like, anything.

MCKENZIE: And any time something is bothering me, I'll call Mariah.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: We love you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Love you, (unintelligible). We love you, Bryan.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Love you, sweetie.

MADDEN: And this year, on the seventh anniversary of Bryan's death, they got together with family and friends to remember him.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Rest in heaven, king.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Rest in power.

MADDEN: They released white balloons with messages for Bryan into the sky.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: Yeah, they gone. They're all gone now.

MADDEN: And, of course, Mariah posted the video on Facebook.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: We love you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: Fly.

(SOUNDBITE OF KASSA OVERALL'S "SLEEPING ON THE TRAIN")

MADDEN: On the next episode of LOUDER THAN A RIOT, Bobby weighs his options in court - stay loyal to his crew or distance himself from his brothers.

KENNETH MONTGOMERY: I thought, a kid that age with that much at stake, trial would - was a nonsense.

MADDEN: And now, while Bobby serves his time, the rap world waits for his return.

SHMURDA: I don't look at myself as a convict or a felon. I look at myself as a hostage right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF KASSA OVERALL'S "SLEEPING ON THE TRAIN")

MADDEN: This episode was written by me, Rodney Carmichael, Adelina Lancianese and Michael May. Michael May and Chenjerai Kumanyika edited this one with help from Chiquita Paschal. It was produced by Adelina Lancianese with help from Matt Ozug, Dustin DeSoto and Sam Leeds. Josh Newell is our engineer. Senior supervising producers are Rachel Neel and N'Jeri Eaton. And shout-out to the big bigwigs - Steve Nelson, Lauren Onkey and Anya Grundmann. Original music by Kassa Overall and Ramtin Arablouei. Our digital editor is Jacob Ganz. Our fact checkers are Will Chase and Nicolette Khan.

(SOUNDBITE OF KASSA OVERALL'S "SLEEPING ON THE TRAIN")

MADDEN: Hit us up on Twitter. We're @LouderThanARiot. Rate and review is on Apple Podcasts. And to follow along with the music you heard in this episode, check out the LOUDER THAN A RIOT playlist on Apple Music and Spotify now. We'll update those each week. And if you want to email us, it's louder@npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF KASSA OVERALL'S "SLEEPING ON THE TRAIN")

MADDEN: From NPR Music, this has been LOUDER THAN A RIOT.

(SOUNDBITE OF KASSA OVERALL'S "SLEEPING ON THE TRAIN")

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