Last week’s drive-by shooting of rapper Young Dolph in Memphis brings up an uncomfortable yet persistent issue. Due to its connection to the streets, hip-hop has probably seen more artists die before their time than any other genre of music. This past August, we commemorated one of the first high-profile deaths—the murder of DJ Scott La Rock, a true mover and shaker in the mid ‘80s rap scene. Though La Rock is hardly a household name, he was on that trajectory had his life not been snuffed out prematurely by an unknown assassin’s bullet on August 27th1987.
At the time, the group he co-founded was the toast of New York, having dropped their debut LP, Criminal Minded (B-Boy Records, 1987), including the hit singles, “South Bronx,” and “The Bridge is Over.” For their next album, they were being courted by both Jive Records and Warner Brothers and indie label Sleeping Bag/Fresh Records had already tapped them to produce Just Ice’s second album Kool & Deadly. As Scott, KRS, Just Ice, and their bodyguard Darrell (aka Robocop) convened at a McDonald’s on 72ndStreet in Manhattan to strategize, Scott received an emergency call from D-Nice (Derrick Jones), the youngest member of the crew. He had just been involved in an altercation in the Bronx and needed help.
Apparently, a year earlier D had spoken to a young girl who had a crazy and jealous boyfriend. When the guy found out, he threatened D, but nothing became of it. Then, out of the blue, as D was walking by the Highbridge Garden Homes in the Bronx, five guys suddenly surrounded him. It was the crazy boyfriend and his crew, who warned D to leave his girl alone before pistol-whipping him and fleeing. D related the story to Scott, who was apparently very diplomatic about it, wanting to squash the beef since the group’s star was on the rise. So, Scott and Robocop drove up to the Bronx accompanied by BDP’s manager, Scotty “Manager Moe” Morris and DJ McBoo. They met D-Nice at the Highbridge Homes where Scott and Darrell exited the vehicle to talk to some kids nearby and find out who had confronted D. Though they didn’t find who they were looking for, Darrell took it upon himself to rough up one of the kids, who immediately went for back-up. Meanwhile, Scott, Darrell, and D returned to their vehicle. As the cherry red, Jeep CJ-7 was pulling away, two shots were fired, apparently from the roof of a nearby building. Sitting in the passenger seat, Scott, unaware that he had been hit, reached back to touch his head. Then he slumped over on the dashboard as they hurried him to the hospital. Though conscious upon arrival, the two wounds to his head and neck proved to be fatal.
In May ’88, two Bronx teens, Cory Bayne and Kendall Newland were arrested and charged with the killing, but due to a lack of witnesses coming forward, both were acquitted at their trial in November 1989. To this day, no one has been charged with the murder of Scott La Rock. Many who were close to him, however, including Ced Gee of Ultramagnetic saw a conspiracy. In an interview with DJ Vlad, Gee contended that it may have been a set-up initiated by the owners of B-Boy Records, who had stiffed BDP on royalties for Criminal Minded and knew the group were planning to defect to another label. Despite Scott La Rock favoring a Warner deal, following his death, KRS elected to go to Jive where he released By All Means Necessary(Jive/RCA, 1988). While he kept the BDP name, continually invoking the spirit of Scott La Rock, he eventually went on to an illustrious solo career and still remains a formidable presence. Scott La Rock, meanwhile, was eventually honored by the borough he represented when Jerome Ave in the Bronx was renamed Scott La Rock Blvd in 2011.