Being a rapper is still one of the most dangerous professions out there.
As someone who lived through the so-called East Coast-West Coast rap war of the late ’90s—a time when Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. were both unnecessary casualties, each gunned down in their prime—it’s unfortunate that young MCs are still being snuffed out. (Both Wikipedia and XXL have been keeping running lists.) It’s even more unfortunate that most of these deaths have been occurring in Southern states, including Texas.
Just a few weeks ago, the murders of two emerging hip-hoppers occurred in Texas within mere days of each other. Destinee Govan, also known as up-and-coming Memphis rapper Lotta Cash Desto, was shot and killed in Houston. A victim of either a botched robbery or road rage (the motive still remains unclear), Desto got in a brief gun fight with two men who approached her car and started shooting. A suspect has been charged with the murder after police found him nearby, bleeding from the abdomen. A couple of days before that, East Dallas rapper BFG Straap (aka Antywon Dillard) died from wounds he suffered during a shooting in South Dallas. Unknown assailants shot Straap, who died in a hospital, and another associate, who died on the scene.
“I just think that it’s ridiculous, man,” says Houston podcaster Donnie Houston. As someone who interviews Texas rappers on The Donnie Houston Podcast, Houston has been around promising MCs whose lives were later taken away from them. Last year, he interviewed rising star Chucky Trill, a Lone Star rapper who was killed in Atlanta just a few days after the episode dropped. “That’s just the times that we’re in right now,” he continues. “It’s almost like the early ’90s, when it was popular for people to get jacked for Starter jackets or Jordans—when that was the thing, younowhaimean. I remember when I was a kid—like, the early ’90s. Like, I remember that, younowhamsayin.”
Houston specifically has been a town where violence in the hip-hop community can happen at the drop of an Astros cap. Hell, you can’t even shoot a music video without the possibility of an actual shooting taking place. Visiting rappers also aren’t safe. In 2020, East Coast MC Benny the Butcher was shot during a robbery attempt at a Houston Walmart, getting popped in the leg as he fled. Even though the Butcher has admitted to strengthening his security after the attack, he says even that’s not enough in these treacherous times. “I’mma be honest with you: You can’t protect yourself from this shit,” he said on the popular radio show The Breakfast Club. “N***as came like the army. So even, right now, how n***as be with security? That don’t be enough … for my situation, that wasn’t enough.” (Amazingly, this won’t stop him from coming back to H-Town at the end of the month to do a show.)
Author and journalist Lance Scott Walker, who has covered the Houston hip-hop scene for many years, certainly knows what’s been keeping rap murders going in this state. “I can’t speak to each case on its own,” says Walker, who released a book on the late Houston rap god DJ Screw earlier this year. “I know that they’re all different. There are different dynamics at work in each case. But it’s really simple—I mean, Texas makes it so easy to get your hands on a gun legally.”
He’s not wrong. Texas is a place that looooooves its guns, and powerful people are making sure that Texans will always be able to get guns with no fuss. Just last month, a Texas federal judge ruled that it is no longer constitutional to ban people under felony indictment from buying guns. (It probably won’t come as much of a shock that this was ruled by U.S. District Judge David Counts, who was appointed by—you guessed it—former president/professional shit-disturber Donald J. Trump.) The year before that, a new law went into effect allowing most Texans who legally own a gun to carry it openly without a permit or training. Walker also points out that with an increase in legal guns, there is also an increase in illegal guns.
“More guns means more opportunities for people to use them,” he says. “And, a lot of times, a shooting like that is a crime of circumstance and opportunity that might not happen if cooler heads prevail. And cooler heads don’t have as much of a chance to prevail if there’s a firearm nearby.”
Whether they’re accessed legally or illegally, guns are out there, usually in the hands of people—whether they’re haters, hotheads, or criminals looking for a quick jack—just looking for a reason to use them. Donnie Houston, who owns a couple of firearms himself, feels that any artist in this rap game—a game where whoever is the most “hood” usually wins—should be cautious at all times, both in public and on social media. (Authorities speaking on the PnB Rock case say the suspects went after Rock because he posted a video of himself wearing expensive jewelry.) “Be mindful,” says Houston. “Be mindful of everything. Be mindful of the message you put into the world. Be mindful of your surroundings. Be mindful of how you carry yourself. Be mindful of other people—just knowing somebody might wanna take something from you just ‘cuz.”
“It is dangerous,” he continues. “I didn’t wanna put it on rap but, like, so many things are happening within the genre to where it’s, like, kinda hard to not incorporate rap into the conversation when you’re talking about violence and all these things that go on.”