“My music is straight facts,” the MC told New York Magazine in October. “There are a lot of gangsters in my ‘hood.”
For Bobby Shmurda — the baby-faced, 20-year-old hip-hop artist arrested in a drug trafficking sting this week — life allegedly seems to have imitated art all too closely. On Thursday, Shmurda, born Ackquille Pollard, and more than a dozen others were charged in a 69-count indictment that included murder, attempted murder, dealing drugs, weapons possession and a list of other crimes in connection with a long-term investigation into shootings and narcotics dealing in Brooklyn.
Shmurda’s lawyer, Howard Greenberg, called the indictment “a worthless piece of paper,” and told the New York Times there was little evidence against his client aside from statements of unreliable co-conspirators. “He’s famous,” Greenberg said. “He’s rich. You think he’s going to do this stuff?”
The investigation allegedly turned up 21 guns. One was allegedly a handgun concealed in a duffle bag on Shmurda’s lap when police arrested him in a car outside Quad Recording — the same studio in Manhattan where Tupac Shakur was shot in 1994. A second gun and a small amount of crack cocaine were also allegedly found in the car.
The two members of the group charged with murder, Alex “A-Rod” Crandon and Rashid “Rasha” Derissant, are accused of killing a member of rival gang, “Brooklyn’s Most Wanted,” on Feb. 8, 2013, outside a Brooklyn bodega.
Shmurda, meanwhile, is accused of firing shots at a crowd outside a barbershop in Brooklyn early this year, and of being present when shots were fired during a confrontation with a rival gang outside a courthouse in January. His friends allegedly had a habit of firing wildly into crowds, prompting bystanders at nightclubs in New York City and Miami to run for cover on multiple occasions.
Shmurda and the others arrested are part of a group called GS9. GS9 Entertainment is the name of Shmurda’s hip-hop crew. But according to police, it’s also an abbreviation for “G Stone Crips,” an East Flatbush gang.
“There is no question that Ackquille Pollard is the driving force behind the GS9 gang and the organizing figure within this conspiracy,” prosecutor Nigel Farina said at Shmurda’s arraignment, according to the New York Times.
Some of the evidence against Shmurda and the others comes from prison phone calls in which GS9 members allegedly talked about shooting rival gang members and dealing drugs. They use code words like “tone” and “socks” to refer to firearms. “Crills” was allegedly code for narcotics, and shootings were “suntans” or “scooms.”
The young man’s songs and videos were “almost like a real-life document of what they were doing on the street,” James Essig of the New York Police Department said at a news conference, as the Associated Press reported.
Shmurda told Complex magazine in July the lyric was true: “I was running with older guys, my brother and [his friends]. So by the time they was doing stuff, I was doing stuff. So they was in like 9th grade.”
In the same song, he also raps about committing murder: “We gon’ pull up in that hooptie like we cops on ‘em/With M16s, we gon’ put some shots on him.” And: “Mitch caught a body ‘bout a week ago.”
In an interview with New York hip-hop station, Power 105.1, Shmurda cleared up any confusion: “It’s not just caught a body ‘bout a week ago. It’s Mitch caught a body ‘bout a week ago’” — perhaps referring to Deshain Cockett, a.k.a. “Mitch,” arrested Wednesday with Shmurda and five others who got a shout out in “Hot N –a.” Cockett is charged with attempted murder.
GS9 was Shmurda’s “family,” he told Complex. Growing up in East Flatbush was like “growing up in the jungle,” he said: “If you ain’t hard you ain’t gonna stand, you gonna fall. You gone break.”
Shmurda’s mother moved to Brooklyn after his father was imprisoned. As a kid, Shmurda tagged along with his older brother’s crowd: “They used to pick on me the most when everybody would get high, but I [would be] standing my ground, fighting everybody. I’d always fight older guys. I got tough like that.”
Despite the parallels between Shmurda’s lyrics and the indictment, his songs may not end up being used against him in court. A state Supreme Court in New Jersey recently ruled rap lyrics inadmissible as evidence of guilt unless they include a “strong nexus” to the crime.
“One would not presume that Bob Marley, who wrote the well-known song ‘I Shot the Sheriff,’ actually shot a sheriff, or that Edgar Allan Poe buried a man beneath his floorboards, as depicted in his short story ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’ simply because of their respective artistic endeavors on those subjects. … Lyrics should receive no different treatment,” Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote. The Supreme Court is currently considering whether rap lyrics posted on Facebook can be considered a threat against another person.
However, Shmurda may have unwittingly given police a lead by posting his music online. The New York Times reported in March that New York detectives monitor rap videos on YouTube to suss out the grudges and hierarchy of street gangs.
Shmurda’s fall comes after a rapid rise to fame.
Shmurda and his crew started posting their recordings online in January. A YouTube video for Shmurda’s song “Hot N –a” sparked the “Shmoney Dance” craze after a clip of Shmurda dancing went viral. By June, NBA players were tweeting about it. In July, Shmurda appeared onstage with established hip-hop artists Raekwon and Meek Mill in Miami, and Jay Z referenced the Shmoney Dance during one of his “On the Run” tour performances.
By the end of July, Shmurda signed a record deal with a major label, Epic Records.
“People from where I come from don’t make it to these places,” Shmurda told Complex. “A lot of people wouldn’t expect to be sitting here. I had meetings with millionaires. I ain’t never seen a millionaire. Probably the judge.”