In the northwestern corner of Strawberry Mansion profiled in this week's City Paper, a decade-long gunfight involving three corners has wounded numerous bystanders, led to rampant witness intimidation, destroyed lifelong friendships and killed or incarcerated a generation of young men.
The neighborhood is also home to a number of talented rap and R&B artists. Check out their music below.
Jeffrey Jones, or Haiti Ock, grew up in Strawberry Mansion. Police say that he was a witness to the murder of his best friend Anwar Ashmore, aka Ig Bug, allegedly committed by another friend, Ronald Thomas, aka Hollow Man. In this song, "Valley of the Killers," he seeks advice from murdered friends like Ashmore, who tells him not to shoot back: "The devil want me to kill and Ig Bug said no."
Ronald Thomas, or Hollow Man, was a figure in the city's underground rap scene before he was convicted of the April 2010 murder of Anwar Ashmore. Prosecutors cited this song, "Ear Bleed," as evidence that Thomas planned the killing in retaliation for stealing $40,000 worth of cocaine: "We talking about 40 thou'. I'm about to get my 40-cal."
Dwight Grant, raised in South Philadelphia, appears to have set his video for his 2009 song "In the Ghetto" — a protest against poverty, unemployment, violence, drug addiction and despair — in Strawberry Mansion. Either way, Hollow Man has a cameo role.
Sigel's lyrics reflect what neighborhood residents say — even drug money has evaporated from this stricken neighborhood: "Ain't nobody getting money/ They just getting by/ Trying to suppress their poverty by getting high/ Some search the bottle for what they can't find in God/ An empty stomach and a gun equals homicide."
Isis Tha Saviour
Isis grew up in North Philadelphia, among other places, and has a lot of family in this corner of Strawberry Mansion. She is bookish and street-wise, having served time in prison and Penn State. Isis raps about the conditions and causes of ghetto life: poverty, mass incarceration, racism.
From her song "Street Chronicles": "Street chronicles, crime rate astronomical/ White coroner sheets from feet to abdominal/ Hood in bad shape but the coke flip phenomenal/ I promise you the ghetto only does what it's designed to do."
Nortavin Rogers, aka Miryda Black, is an R&B singer from Strawberry Mansion. He grew up next door to Calvin Alexander, whose 2003 murder set off a decade of violent retaliation. Today, he works for the violence prevention group Philadelphia CeaseFire.
Watch this interview with Scrapple TV:
A few lines: "I got the world on my shoulders/ How many feeling that way in here tonight/ Them little babies getting older/ I got no job I can't sleep at night/ They killing kids for no reason."
Listen to a few songs here.
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