JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The music and beats heard in the music videos are catchy, and millions of people have heard the songs on YouTube and other streaming services.
But rap music videos by local artists depicting real murders in Jacksonville are fueling fire in the community.
The music videos give details about horrific crimes, and the heartbroken mothers who are still waiting for arrests, or trials, for their son’s murders say the lyrics have gone too far.
While they wait for justice, the music videos coming mostly from two rival rap groups in Jacksonville have gained popularity across the country with songs glorifying their sons’ murders.
“Who I Smoke” by Jacksonville rapper Yungeen Ace and others, which features a sample from Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” has been viewed more than 33 million times since it was first published in March.
(WARNING: Some of the videos below contain explicit lyrics that some may find disturbing)
The response to Yungeen Ace’s song, recorded by rival rapper Julio Foolio — “Beatbox Remix/Bibby Flow” — has racked up more than 9 million views.
The music videos that feature lyrics about murders of young men in Jacksonville have propelled the rappers to national fame, but behind the videos are families that are forced to relive the pain.
“It’s like somebody taking a healed wound and opening it back up and stabbing at it over and over again,” Elizabeth Gainer said.
One of the mothers of a murder victim mentioned in a song told News4Jax she reached out to YouTube, asking if they could take one of the videos down, but the company never responded.
“I hope and pray that the person, or the persons, who are rapping about that, they understand that you have a mom, too. Would you want your mom to feel the way other moms feel?” Melissa Jackson said.
The sons of Gainer and Jackson were both murdered, and their names are mentioned in the songs that have been heard by millions.
Who are the groups behind the videos?
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said ATK and KTA, the two rap groups behind the majority of the controversial music videos, aren’t just rivals in music, they are enemies in the streets.
Yungeen Ace, whose legal name is Kenyatta Bullard, is affiliated with ATK and is one of the biggest Jacksonville rappers on the scene right now. Bullard was the only survivor of an ambush shooting on Town Center Parkway in 2018 that left three others dead, including his brother. The group was out celebrating a friend’s birthday. Bullard survived despite being shot eight times and has gone on to find increasing fame with nearly 3 million followers on Instagram and a deal with a major record label.
In “Who I Smoke,” a music video with rappers believed to represent ATK, lyrics reference at least three people that were killed in Jacksonville shootings in recent years.
”Who I smoke, Bibby. Who I smoke, Teke. Who I smoke, Lil Nine,” Yungeen Ace says during the song’s chorus.
“Bibby” is Adrian Gainer, a 16-year-old friend of rapper Julio Foolio who was shot and killed in the Hilltop Village Apartments in 2019.
“He was joy. All he did was laugh and dance,” Elizabeth Gainer said. “Nobody can do anything worse to me than killing my child.”
It took two years for an arrest to be made. The man now accused of killing Adrian Gainer is Hakeem Robinson, known as rapper Ksoo, who is also affiliated with ATK.
Lyrics from one of Ksoo’s music videos also mentions Adrian Gainer by his nickname “Bibby.”
“N**** never play with Ksoo. Smoke Durk and Bibby to the face though,” Ksoo says in his music video for “Ksoo B***h.”
Robinson is currently in jail, charged with second-degree murder in Gainer’s death.
Gainer’s mother said Robinson and other rappers continuously mocked her son’s death in music videos and on social media for years.
“I’ve heard anything from where he was shot, I’ve heard what his last words were,” Elizabeth Gainer said.
“Bibby had a closed casket, I wasn’t surprised,” Ksoo says in the song.
This isn’t the only murder Robinson is accused of.
He is also charged with second-degree murder in the 2020 shooting death of Charles McCormick, also known as rapper Lil Buck. Robinson’s father, Abdul Robinson Sr., is charged with accessory to murder after the fact and his brother Abdul Robinson Jr., is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the shooting.
JSO said all three Robinsons are linked to ATK.
History of violence surrounding ATK
The string of violence surrounding the ATK dates back to 2019, when rapper Willie Addison, another one of Robinson Sr.’s sons known as “Boss Goon,” was killed and five others were wounded in Spring Park. The shooting victims had just left a rap music event at Paradise Gentlemens Club on Baymeadows Road.
Two weeks later, Damon Rothermel was shot and killed while riding his bicycle on Emerson Street. Police said Rothermel was hit by a stray bullet during a shootout between cars. Dominique Barner, who has connections to ATK, and two others were charged with murder in connection with Rothermel’s death.
Then in early 2020, McCormick was shot and killed in Arlington during the daytime ambush in a shopping plaza.
Barner is also charged in connection with McCormick’s murder. According to Barner, who was recorded by a confidential informant in jail, the reason Hakeem Robinson allegedly wanted to kill McCormick was because he made a song that “talked [disparagingly] about Willie Addison.”
JSO Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters said ATK may be linked to more than a dozen Jacksonville murders and other crimes committed in response to perceived insults.
“It’s a range of things. It could be drugs, it could be something as simple as me making a rap song about you and you don’t like it. So one of your friends, one of your associates says we’re going to get back and we’re going to do something, and they’ll start a shooting war,” Waters said.
Hakeem Robinson’s attorney told News4Jax that ATK is a certified business, not a violent gang.
ATK is listed on Apple Music under Ksoo’s music, but the ATK website is not active and reads “Opening Soon.”
Julio Foolio and KTA
The group KTA, whose most popular member Julio Foolio has nearly 1 million followers on Instagram, also isn’t shy about naming murder victims in music videos.
One of the victims referenced in a KTA song is Freddy Patterson, a 30-year-old father of 12 who was shot and killed in November 2020.
His mother, Shawnentina Benton, said she doesn’t know who the rappers are or why they would be talking about her son’s death.
“It’s not a funny thing that somebody is dead. It’s not funny. They got loved ones, they’ve got kids,” Benton said.
The KTA music video lyrics also mention Corbin Johnson.
“Corbin got kidnapped, they found his bones he was rotten. (Where’s Corbin?),” Julio Foolio says in one song.
Johnson’s mother, Melissa Jackson, reported him missing in 2018.
“He was 18. He was just a baby,” she said.
A year later, his remains were found in a wooded area. To this day, no arrests have been made.
“In my heart, I feel like it’s someone that he knew because Corbin wouldn’t just leave with anyone,” Jackson said.
“Corbin got kidnapped, got his a** found,” Julio Foolio says in a song.
Julio Foolio also makes a reference to the death of Yungeen Ace’s brother and two others in his video for “When I See You,” which has been viewed over 24 million times on YouTube.
“Went out to eat on his birthday. Four shot, three dead in the worst way. (Damn.) He kept dissin’ on me, now he’s smoking twenty-three,” Julio Foolio sings in the chorus.
The rapper also calls out Hakeem Robinson by his rap name, Ksoo, and references his current incarceration.
“Ksoo, man, he been a fan. Don’t wish jail on nobody, I swear they need to free that man so he can catch a head shot,” Julio Foolio raps.
Despite the sometimes heartbreaking lyrics heard in the music videos, Johnson’s mother feels they could help the police.
“For me, I want them to keep making the songs because you’re going to say the right thing at the wrong time that’s going to be specific to the details that you don’t know about Corbin’s murder. So keep talking,” Jackson said.
JSO is watching
Even though the words in the music videos may give details about the murders, JSO Chief T.K. Waters said police cannot make arrests on the lyrics in the music videos alone.
“The best thing for us to do at that point is to put that information on those videos with some physical evidence, with some things that we know will help put that together and make a much stronger case,” Waters said.
Waters said JSO is constantly monitoring social media and every video that goes online.
“We do have a group in the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office that spends all their time dealing with this issue. They are focused solely on this issue,” Waters said.
Despite the rising popularity of the songs — which have become the subject of a YouTube documentary that features News4Jax’s coverage of the violence and has been viewed 3 million times — JSO said the number of murders in the past year in Jacksonville has gone down.
According to News4Jax records, 131 murders were reported in 2019. There were 141 murders in 2020. As of Oct. 18, 89 murders have been reported. There were 116 murders reported at the same time last year.
JSO said it believes having several of ATK’s members in jail is helping.
“I can say that they’ve slowed down and it would stand to reason that because those young men that are in a place where they are awaiting trial, they can no longer harm people in our community,” said Waters, who recently announced his candidacy for Jacksonville sheriff.
Families wait for justice
Elizabeth Gainer is now waiting for the trial and hoping for justice for her son.
“Poppy was loved. Deeply loved. So we here. I’m not going anywhere,” Elizabeth Gainer said. “Hakeem Robinson will see me every court date until they sentence him.”
Jackson and Benton are still praying for arrests.
“I forgive them,” Jackson said. “Unforgiveness for me is like me taking poison and expecting someone else to die. It’s just not worth it.”
“It’s been hell, it’s patience and it’s a wait. I’m not letting go and JSO is not letting go and justice will be served,” Benton said.
In a way, the music video lyrics are merely descriptions of crimes, not confessions. And it’s worth noting that not all of the rappers, including Yungeen Ace and Julio Foolio, are even suspected of crimes.
For now, since the lyrics about the murders aren’t a chargeable offense, the mothers hope people will speak up and give police information about the crimes if they know something so they can finally have justice for their sons.
News4Jax contacted several rappers seen in the viral videos and their attorneys to share their story. Although some rappers have done interviews with national hip-hop journalists, none of them agreed to interview with News4Jax.
Robinson Sr.’s attorney told News4Jax the songs are how the artists express themselves, adding there is no proof that the rap groups are linked to the murders.
So is there an end in sight for the ongoing beef between ATK and KTA?
In a recent interview, Jones was asked if he and Bullard could ever move past their feud.
“It will probably happen sooner than later. You never know what God has planned, ya know?” Jones said.
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