March 6, 2018

Remember The Legends; The Story of Kilo G

By  Will Stephenson from Oxford American

It was January, 1997, two weeks after New Year’s Day. At around 4 A.M., Charles Watkins, a homicide detective with the New Orleans Police Department, was driving slow circles around the Westbank, downriver from Algiers Point. It was a cool night, in the lower forties, and quiet. I imagine Watkins was bored, maybe struggling to stay awake in the dark. And then a call comes out over the radio, breaking the silence—there’s been a shooting at Live Oaks.

This wasn’t unusual. Live Oaks, which most people still knew by its former name, DeGaulle Manor, was one of the roughest areas in Old Algiers. Section 8 apartments that had been neglected over the decades, the buildings were in poor shape inside and out. From a distance, you could hardly see the complex through the trees. It was a neighborhood within a neighborhood.

Watkins pulled into the driveway on Murl Street and found two other officers already on the scene. They were standing over a young woman, who sat on the steps outside her front door with her head in her hands. Her name was LaKeisha, and she was crying. Other residents, roused by the commotion, peeked out of their curtains or leaned over the railing to get a better look. Watkins got out of his car and walked over to LaKeisha’s boyfriend, who lay on the sidewalk covered in his own blood. He wore a white t-shirt and gray sweatpants; he’d been shot three times. Robert Johnson Jr. was still alive, but you couldn’t tell it. He was bleeding from his mouth and from his nose. Watkins knelt down beside him and asked who’d shot him, but he struggled to form any words in response.

The paramedics arrived and helped the twenty-year-old into the back of an ambulance. It was an auspicious name for a black Southern musician—Robert Johnson Jr.—but his family called him Big Rob and everyone else knew him as Kilo G. He was a rapper, the first artist signed to Cash Money Records. A few months later, even the N.O.P.D. would have been impressed by this fact, but the label’s name didn’t mean much to Watkins or the other officers that night at Live Oaks. They processed the crime scene, photographing the site from different angles. They noted the blood stains on Johnson’s blue Cadillac.

When Cash Money was started several years before by the brothers Baby and Slim Williams, Kilo G had been its flagship artist. He was only fourteen when he met Baby and Slim, too young to sign a contract; they’d had to take a ferry across the river to find his grandmother, so she could sign in his place. Before Mannie Fresh, before Lil Wayne—before the fleet of Bentleys and yellow Hummers that roamed the streets of New Orleans like an occupying army—there had been Kilo G. LaKeisha tried explaining this, but the officers at Live Oaks didn’t seem interested, and it didn’t matter anyway. Johnson was dead. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

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