Last night the Baltimore rapper was tragically taken from us at age 23. His impact on the city was an immeasurably positive one.
Yesterday evening around 7 p.m. after finishing playing in a charity basketball game titled Touch The People: Pray For Peace in These Streets at Morgan State University, 23-year-old Tyriece Watson a.k.a well-known Baltimore rapper, Lor Scoota, was fatally shot in the intersection of Harford and Moravia Roads— a three minute drive from the school campus. Scoota was best known for his 2014 catchy drug-dealing anthem “Bird Flu” from his Still In The Trenches mixtape series. The song permeated through Baltimore like club music of the 90’s and 2000’s, being blasted out of cars on any given day, even in 2016. With its accompanying dance of the same name being acted out at family cookouts, block parties and impromptu dance competitions on the street, it arguably became the modern-day Electric Slide in the city.
Since 2013, Scoota’s charisma, infectious delivery and refusal to change in order to appeal to a market outside of Baltimore served as inspiration to a younger generation of artists to have the audacity to launch their own careers in a time where local rappers getting outside attention felt like a pipedream. From his early freestyles to the release of “Bird Flu,” Scoota’s music gave a proper voice to street life in Baltimore that didn’t have to be directed by David Simon to resonate with the public. It was from the source. And when you get it from the source, it isn’t always pretty, polished or positive. When you're coming up in a disenfranchised environment where over 65,000 children since Scoota’s birth year of 1993 have had dangerously high levels of lead poisoning and often grow apathetic in the face of murder, your surroundings aren't pretty, polished or positive. Nonetheless, it was needed. Being that voice and touching on topics ranging from apologies to his mom for putting her through unnecessary stress, to feeling the urgency to walk around with a gun to celebrating success with his friends helped his music gain the favor of Meek Mill and Diddy, who both posted on Instagram about their belief in Scoota’s gift to touch the people. His pull was magnetic.
In late 2014, I booked Scoota for a party I was hosting with a friend in downtown Baltimore. Knowing my crowd— people who grew up in East or West Baltimore and migrated to the city’s small creative hub, mixed with art students— I knew we had a unique chance to not only bring “the real Baltimore” we grew up in to the arts district but to also show Scoota that his music was touching way more people than he even knew. It was a beautiful event. The night before, he dropped his third tape, Still In The Trenches 2.5, and performed about half of it, getting the crowd especially hype when he performed “My 40”. From his YBS crew on stage to the crowd, everybody jumped up and down frantically, appropriately surrendering their composure. Witnessing his energy and confidence, I knew Scoota was a bonafide star that night. About four police cars and a wagon showed up in paranoia of Scoota inciting a riot but, much to their disapproval, all he did after his performance was continuously thank the crowd and wish that everyone got home safe.
Earlier this year, I spoke to him before he performed at a local high school pep rally and we went on for about an hour in the back of his manager’s truck. “Shit really the struggle down here,” he said about the advantages of being from Baltimore as he looked out of the truck’s windows. “Niggas dying everyday and breaking records with murders, so coming from here and surviving this shit, walking through it everyday is an advantage. I always knew that I was gonna be something. When I didn’t have no paper I would just tell myself, ‘All I gotta do is get around these niggas and I know they gonna feel me.’ I get around people and they treat me like I been here already. I ain’t been here before. Meek, The Game, Glizzy. I met Puff and he told me to always stay close to the money. I kept that with me. That’s how you win: staying out of trouble and staying around the money.”
He talked about his first ever performance at the locally-adored skating rink, Shake & Bake, just up the street from the 1500 block of Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore where he grew up. "All my niggas was in there. All the hood bitties. That’s when I hit the Bird Flu for the first time. Ain’t nothing gonna compare to that. They used to put me out of Shake & Bake. I got a little $300 for the show,” he said with a proud smile. “That was a blessing back then. Nobody knew nothing about the “Bird Flu” but the crazy thing is that, they fucked with it. As soon as I hit the dance, everybody in the crowd was like ‘Gahh!’ Somebody gotta have that footage.”
Scoota’s death is a tragic one but he did not pass to a city that did not appreciate his contributions to generating a post-club music interest in what Baltimore has to offer. Even Tate Kobang, who most would view as the city’s most visible rapper, paid respects to Scoota by hitting the Bird Flu dance in his breakout “Bank Rolls” video and even on his last tape, Lord Of Da Trenches, featured a “Bird Flu” freestyle, signifying the track’s cultural value. Speaking to many of his fans last night, both local and beyond, it has left most in a conflicted place -- one that revisits old, worn down stereotypes of Baltimore’s culture of violent crime. There’s a lot of inertia tied in here, that feeling of being surprised yet not being surprised at all, due to circumstances. It’s that deep-seated feeling of a black body being so susceptible to being taken away and you not being able to do anything about it.
Photo by Blue Magic D, minutes before Scoota was killed
I can’t help but to think back on a recent interview that Boosie gave Vlad TV where he advised all successful rappers to get out of their hometowns: “Wherever you from you will get hated the most... Those guys who been looking at you your whole life and building up envy. They can’t stop you from getting money. You don’t wanna be their friend or associate...So you know what, ‘I’ll take your life.’ That’s how the crooks look at it.”
Whatever the reason for what happened to Lor Scoota last night, he was a true gem to Baltimore City and from this day forward, you will not be able to discuss Baltimore’s musical history without mentioning his name. He gave family gatherings a breath of fresh air with the Bird Flu dance, he put people across the country down with our culture and he gave many a reason to be proud to be from Baltimore when many were searching for reasons to before him.
My favorite quote of his from our conversation before the pep rally is this:
“I don’t sound like nobody but a Baltimore nigga and that’s all I’m trying to sound like. So, if it ain’t gonna sound original then I don’t wanna hear what most niggas talking about. It’s just in our DNA. I just grew up with the ambition to shine. Coming from where I’m coming from, if you don’t wanna shine and put on, what you really wanna do? It’s what you make it.”
Thank you, Scoota.
Follow Lawrence on Twitter.