A vigil for 23-year old Tyriece Watson, the Baltimore rapper known as, “Lor Scoota,” on June 27 ended with a smoldering standoff between those mourning the young burgeoning hip hop artist and Baltimore City police, at Penn and North, one of the flashpoints of last April’s uprising. Some hurled bricks and bottles at police, three people were arrested, many appealed for peace.
But, the murder of Scoota, gunned down in his car while traveling east on Moravia Road at the intersection of Harford Road, after leaving a peace rally at Morgan State University, has rattled many in the city’s poorest communities to their cores.
“It’s definitely heartbreaking especially to the Baltimore hip hop community,” said independent hip hop artist and educator Eze Jackson. “I’ve taught hip hop in classes for a number of years…teaching young people how to write their own songs and song structure and one of the first things I always ask them is, `Who are your favorite rappers?’ A few years ago, I started to hear for the first time ever an overwhelming amount of students say that two Baltimore rappers were their favorites and that was Young Moose and Lor Scoota,” Jackson added.
“So, the symbolism to me is not just a heavy blow to the hip hop community, but to our whole community. Here you have a young artist who, regardless of his content, was actually doing something positive that affected young people. They looked up to him, they saw him as somebody that came from their neighborhood who was now being able to do things that statistically they’re not supposed to be able to do.”
In the aftermath of last April’s uprising, Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby, who represents the Seventh District where it unfolded, first crossed paths with Scoota.
“I had the opportunity to partner with Lor Scoota at an event after the unrest, when we went around to West Baltimore high schools with local artists and talent to give a positive message to the students. Right away, out of everybody that we interfaced with, on the stage Lor Scoota stood out,” Mosby said.
“He was focused, he was driven, he was definitely a product of Baltimore, but he knew exactly where he wanted to go and how he wanted to benefit not only himself, but his family, his community and the city of Baltimore as a whole…it’s definitely a tragedy and a loss for the entire city,” Mosby added.
Ras Tahuti Missouri, a 15-year old spoken word artist from West Baltimore, knew Scoota and says he was inspired by his personal example, which transcended the the gritty lyrics of, “Bird Flu,” Scoota’s hit song chronicling Baltimore’s drug culture.
“He rapped about his reality…you have to look at the artist… but, you have to look at the person. He went to the schools, feeding the homeless, donating thousands of dollars worth of shoes to children, linking up at peace rallies and he was murdered after a peace rally,” observed Missouri, whose mother recently pulled him out of Baltimore’s public schools fearing her son was being imperiled by the violence that took the life of the up and coming rap artist.
Lor Scoota was one of the few shining symbols of hope for some of the city’s most disenfranchised communities. Many of the young people who rumbled through the streets of West Baltimore last April during the uprising, bumped Scoota’s music incessantly and were buoyed by the reality that he still lived among them, evidence of the promise of brighter days. His talent cut a path for him away from the city and the violence that ultimately snuffed out his promising young life. Now, that path seems dimmer again.
“He was trying to get away from the street life, he was trying to get away from all of that,” Missouri said. “That was his ticket out of the city…rapping about what he lived… and it’s sad that the reality and what he lived turned around to be his downfall.”
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.