News of 17-year-old Gakirah Barnes’ death is just now making its way around the internet. The Chicago teen was gunned down after being struck by at least nine bullets on April 11. Given her lifestyle, some would say that her fate was sealed. Since age 14, the teen had a well-known reputation for being a deadly assassin. This post isn’t meant to glamorize Barnes’ short life, nor to highlight the fact that she was a female who allegedly committed crimes that are mostly associated with young black men. It is more to focus attention on and to explore the connection to violence and rap music. Some claim Barnes was involved in up to 20 gangland deaths. She fell in line with a group of teen boys in her South Side neighborhood who called themselves the St. Lawrence Boys, a.k.a. the Fly Boy Gang. Following the death of her friend Shondale ‘Tooka’ Gregory, the Fly Boys became the ‘Tooka gang’, with Barnes changing her name to ‘Tookaville Kirah.” Eight months later, Barnes was immediately linked to the death of 20-year-old opposing gang member Odee Perry. Online postings labeled her ‘hitta,’ slowly creating the narrative of Barnes as a killer.

The rest of her crew were no different. They all glamorized and publicized their instant actions of murder, drug dealing and promiscuity. They bragged about one another’s “achievements,” in hopes of branding themselves as a crew “not to be f***ed with.”

In July 2013, the Fly Boy Gang posted a music video called “Murda I Shot,” which featured Barnes and other members from the squad:

The video does exactly what Chief Keef’s video “I Don’t Like” did; glamorized murder, gangs and gun toting. He was awarded a record deal with Interscope. Keef’s rival, Lil Jojo followed suit in hopes of getting a deal. Instead he got gunned down in 2012. 

In the Fly Boy Gang’s music video, Barnes appears in many of the scenes, but takes center focus during the rapper’s line ‘K.I. my young killa.’ She is seen holding an automatic weapon, pointing it toward the camera as a bandana covers her face. They too were clearly attempting to attract the attention of major record label execs. Over the last few years, music producers and label executives have taken an interest in hardcore, gritty street rap. It appears as if the days of rapping for kicks are long gone, and those who are actually living out their songs are rewarded. Unfortunately that comes with a price, often paid in the currency of young black bodies.

Barnes died after a fellow gang member Lil Jay taunted rival gang Blood Money.  He posted a video of himself drinking a red beverage, singing: ‘Sippin’ on Blood Money.’ Barnes had been credited with the murder of one of their crew members, and the buzz spread like wildfire across social media.The next day she was gunned down while walking to a friend’s house.

I’d be a fool to say that music is the ONLY reason for the senseless violence. Gun violence is a societal issue that has multiple layers to it. But teens, particularly teens of color living the lives of thugs, and portraying them on social media to garner attention of record execs who find “drill music” to be the theme of the hour IS an issue. I’ve been saying for years that music is a more powerful vehicle than we give it credit for. I wonder if people will actually open their eyes and take notice of its affects on our youth.