IN LOVING MEMORY OF RAMONA M. LEGENDS NEVER DIE.
Shot By Vincent D

God Bless The Trap

An art saga and love theory

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My dad was the first man I met with a hustler’s spirit – but he wasn’t in the street. Aside from his full-time job driving trucks, he was selling pretty much anything. People would always come to the house looking to buy something. Whether it be some CD’s, DVD’s, clothes, shoes, jewelry, whatever – he had it and he made sure he was getting paid for it. Knowing where he was from, I knew he had a good grasp on life and the streets. He could’ve taken that route, but he didn’t. And I respect him for it.

Both my parents come from the city of Philadelphia, but my brother, sister and I were all raised in the suburbs of South Jersey. First Delran, then Willingboro. Then, after my father passed, it was Mount Laurel for 9 years. Before I started traveling on my own, I had never been to a hood. I had always wanted to go though because I felt my upbringing and home base were boring. Everything about where we relocated was lame to me. The niggas especially. They were all goofy to me.

At first it wasn’t a street nigga I was after. I just wanted somebody who was slightly rough around the edges. I didn’t care about their background. You just had to have some shit with you. Like teach me something I don’t know… What are your dreams? What are you into? What was life like growing up for you? Please keep it real with me. But rarely did any nigga ever. Nor were they even interesting or cool enough to truly capture my interests.

It was in April 2007 when I met Rell. He was just like any other nigga to me at first. I’m hard to impress. I’m like that with everybody, but once I really got to know him; I fucked with him. What really caught my attention about him at first was that he was a rapper. As an artist myself I respected it and at that time I was going through this phase of trying to make beats. He could actually spit though, too. Had he not really had talent, I wouldn’t even have been that interested. But he was talented. And in that way, we were similar.

As time passed, I learned much about him. Shit that took him a while to even share, but I understood why. For starters, he was from Newark. Once I caught wind of that, from the jump, I knew he grew up completely different from what I was used to. He’d always say he didn’t have a childhood. At the time, I didn’t know what he meant by it, but I would never push him to tell me. I knew he would let me know when he was ready, so in the meantime, I played my position and just observed. He had a strong mind. He was very persuasive – even manipulative at times but I caught on. He was stubborn, but I was the same way… a bit of a hothead too, so we clashed sometimes. He was sensitive, though. Kind (when he wanted to be) and funny. He was confident with a lil charm about him. But most important he was honest – and that to me was rare, because not everyone will keep it real with you. He was a gem.

 

Although his reputation was wild, I would not pass him up over some hear-say. And when I heard it from Rell himself, it mattered even less because he stayed true. One thing about him, though, was that he was a bit of a player. Oh yeah, he was real popular with the bitches, yet I still had no fear because I knew who I was. And secretly I liked the challenge. Once I started coming around, I observed a lot of other shit, too. Like how there were always large amounts of cash stashed around his place. Weed was in abundance. Even before we started seeing each other in person, he would always say he was smoking–so I assumed he was just a heavy smoker. And he was–but once I saw him hoist his little strap, I knew exactly what I had gotten myself into. Still.. I wasn’t scared. I guess I could already sense what I had dove into and I was ok.

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I knew I was in deep, and I knew he was serious about me. I knew he wasn’t one to play people too close, and we developed a strong bond by this time. I felt special, and I had every reason to. He became really protective of me. He encouraged me a lot to stay in school when I was getting fed up. He checked up on me. Constantly wanted me to come see him. He always bought me snacks and little gifts. He was so sweet. When I shared my experiences and feelings to him with anyone, though, they were often astonished. Hitting me with questions like.. What?? Who?? HIM???  Once people knew who I was involved with. I felt like they chalked me up to be this dumb, infatuated little girl blinded by love, but it was quite the opposite. I knew the real him, and once he finally opened up to me like I prayed for him to, everything made sense.

I remember the pain he expressed when he told me he grew up without his mother and father. The hurt in his eyes when he told me the lady who had adopted him died suddenly. The numbness I sensed when he told me how much loss he suffered… and how he himself came close to death a few times. The lack of love when he reflected on how many times he had been fucked over. The anger in him when he wouldn’t even say shit, he would just zone out sometimes – leaving me thinking like “What else?” But I never asked. Because I knew there were things he just wasn’t ready to share with me and that was okay.

 

I just couldn’t fathom how someone so beautiful came from such terrible circumstances, but it made him more beautiful to me. I saw so much of myself in him because I too suffered loss, grew up without a parent, and felt the burden of loneliness often. I never stopped using art as an outlet and I knew he used his art in the same right.

I remember when he would record in this studio around the way and I finally got to go with him. He was so well known and respected. It was crazy. They had this man’s face on the wall and everything. Like he was the face of the whole shit. Everybody loved this man and his music. That’s when I knew he was a star. In those spaces, not many people tell you’re good if your shit isn’t really fire. So either these people actually feared this man or he was on some shit.

In the beginning, when we were young, I didn’t pay too much attention to the words in his music. I just knew I was talking to some rap nigga shit and he was actually good at it. Once I could really say I knew him and he kept on recording, I thought the shit was dope – because none of the shit he said in his raps were lies at all. It’s rare for somebody to actually be able to channel some shit like that into art and have people fuck with it. That was another element to him I admired. He’s always a man of action. Although he doesn’t do everything I would like him to do, he does what needs to be done. And he can always make some shit happen for himself.

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He put me on to a lot of good music too. Before I got into the Trap shit, I listened to a lot of regular rap. Not too much mainstream, but shit like Tupac, Biggie, the Wu-Tang Clan, NWA, Nas, Jay-Z, Jada, Styles, Snoop, etc. I only fucked with the classics mostly. I fucked with with 50 heavy. A lot of Old School shit too. Like real old. My dad was responsible for all that.

Rell used to bump a lot of Gucci and Gotti around me. I remember some Waka too. Jerry, Future, Young Scooter. Then once Chicago got poppin it was Chief Keef, Lil Durk, Fredo, Lil Reese, Lil Bibby, G Herbo and the list goes on. I actually grew to like the music, it was go getter music, it was hard, and it reminded me of him. I could appreciate the shit because I could relate to it on a different level. You can feel where they’re coming from if you know a nigga in the trap. You can tell they literally put their lives into that shit and they show you that when they put their minds to some shit, they will deliver.

Even listening to a nigga like Meek Mill is crazy to me because he’s basically from across the bridge.  I would listen to Flamers heavy – back when his shit would get all the air play. Had the whole truth-state bumping before the world knew. Compared to where he is now, it’s obvious he put in a lot of work and look where it got him. I wasn’t sure if all these rappers tell the truth in their lines, but these niggas motivate me. They motivate the people where they’re from too and at the end of the day that’s all that matters. Making a difference.

Obviously, my nigga isn’t the only nigga that’s been through some shit. My nigga isn’t the only nigga in the streets. My nigga isn’t the only nigga with the ability to make art either, but it’s because of him that I have a general love and respect for every nigga like him. Who happens to be living that life. Taking the risks. Doing what they have to do to provide for their families, making it happen, regardless. Furthermore, if it wasn’t for him, I’d probably be one of the cruel individuals on the sidelines judging him.

It’s crazy because he always said how much better off I would probably be had we never gotten this far, but I feel like I’m blessed. Coming from opposite sides, I’m sure we’ve shown each other completely different ways of life, as well as taught each other that we’re still the same in many aspects.

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Even if we stop fucking with each other, I’ll always appreciate the impact he’s had on my life. Aside from the fact that I have his son, I’m forever connected to him because he plays a big part in why I view life the way I do now. I know niggas like him don’t make the best choices or do the right things all the time–but there’s beauty in everything.

I found beauty in something people told me to stay away from. I found beauty in a street nigga–and in return he made my life a work of art.

WORDS BY SIERRA LACEY

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