New Orleans rapper BTY YoungN’s troubled past, promising career ended by gunfire in Hollygrove
2 years ago The Times-Picayune 0
At 27-years-old, New Orleans rapper BTY YoungN appeared on the rise amid a troubled life. He had been in and out of court and jails over the years, including once on a second-degree murder charge, but record labels were calling, a deal appeared ready to be inked and his life seemed ripe for a change, friends said.
Late Saturday night (April 29), just days before friends said he was to meet a lawyer to consider signing with famed local label Cash Money Records, BTY YoungN was shot dead at a Shell gas station in Hollygrove. So it ended a hip-hop career started when he began crafting rhymes 13 years ago.
“He had reached the point in his life that he became so free,” Michael “Mista Maena” Patterson, a mentor to the young rapper, said Sunday morning. “A lot of people were counting on this guy. He had a good heart.”
New Orleans police found BTY YoungN, whose given name is Desmone Jerome, shot several times beside a gas pump in the station around 11:15 p.m. in the 9200 block of Airline Highway. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Jerome had a history of drug and weapon related arrests, court records show, including on a charge of attempted second-degree murder for which he pleaded guilty to a reduced aggravated assault charge in 2013. Police have not indicated a motive or suspect in Jerome’s killing.
He leaves behind a nearly two-month-old daughter, Patterson said.
“They’d rather kill you before they see a young man change his whole family and his life,” Patterson said. “Whoever did this, they just didn’t know who he was.”
Patterson’s first memories of the young rapper go way back, to the days when Jerome was growing up in New Orleans’ Carrollton neighborhood. Patterson said he went to high school with Jerome’s mother, and at first knew Jerome as a kid in the neighborhood who liked to play around. Patterson called him “Little D,” short for Desmone, long before he became known by the acronym “BTY” for “Back-a-Town Youngin’.”
One day, at a party for Jerome’s niece, Patterson heard the young rapper perform. He was startled by the talent.
“I thought, ‘This little dude’s raw,'” Patterson said. “I didn’t know him yet as a rapper. But he spit.”
Problem was Jerome, who was 18-years old at the time, lacked structure to his lyricism. And he had been in legal trouble.
So Patterson, who forms half of the local rap duo group Partners N Crime along with Walter “Kango Slim” Williams, took Jerome under his wing and bought him to the group’s half-studio, half-home house in Eastover. The aim was to get the young rapper off the streets and give him a fighting chance to succeed.
“When we took hold of him, he found a love for music,” Williams said Sunday morning. “We wanted him to escape that area because we knew that he had gotten into a little trouble.”
In an interview Jerome gave with Say Cheese TV in January, the young rapper spoke about his time on the streets. After dropping out of school, Jerome said, he turned to “hustling” to make ends meet. He described surviving a shooting when he was 16-years old.
Court records show Jerome’s arrests in Orleans and Jefferson parishes extended back to 2007, on charges ranging from selling crack cocaine to an undercover cop to possession of illegal weapons. After his second-degree murder charge was pleaded down to aggravated assault, he received credit for time served in jail.
In the Say Cheese TV interview, Jerome attests to spending three-and-a-half years in jail.
“That’s the environment I got caught up with,” he said. “The streets suck you in.”
He also said in the interview that he left jail and thrust himself into rapping, earning his first payment of $4,000 for to record a few verses on two tracks done by local rap star Juvenile.
“I said, ‘That’s what I’m gonna do.,'” he said in that interview. “I ain’t selling drugs. I’m rapping!”
By Patterson’s and Williams’s accounts, that’s exactly what Jerome did. He ended the violent chapter of his life and set his sights on family and his hip-hop career, they said. The accolades and record-label attention started rolling in.
Last year, Jerome won “Breakthrough Artist” of the year at the 2016 Nola Music Awards. He was dropping music videos and releasing mixtapes, such as his 2016 effort “I Ain’t Sorry for the Wait” – a play on mixtapes released by Cash Money Records’ marquee artist, Lil Wayne.
With his newfound success, BTY YoungN was headed on a trajectory to perhaps joining Lil Wayne at Cash Money. Just a few weeks ago, Patterson said, the paperwork to hash out a deal to sign Jerome had arrived from Bryan “Birdman” Williams, Cash Money’s co-founder and CEO.
“He had a few things on the table,” Patterson said, referencing smaller independent labels. “But Cash Money was the biggest.”
Birdman, along with representatives from Cash Money Records, have not yet spoken publicly about Jerome’s death. Representatives of the label did not respond Sunday to requests for comment.
In videos posted on YouTube, Birdman appears occasionally alongside the young rapper, including once during a venture to purchase a gold toilet. In another video, Jerome is seen entering an Audi dealership and dumps stacks of cash on a salesman’s desk to buy a car.
It’s this kind of early success, Patterson and Williams said, that led to vitriol on social media, particularly Instagram. Jealousy of success and blossoming wealth, rather than the drug trade, had become Jerome’s new and only problems since leaving narcotics behind, they said.
At one point, Patterson said he urged the young rapper to “block” Instagram followers who were sending Jerome hateful messages. That tactic seemed to intensify, not lessen, the criticism.
“These guys are like vultures here when they see somebody start to come up,” Patterson said Sunday. “These senseless murders are over nothing. My little brother got killed for trying to do the right thing and trying to find a way out for his family.”
For his part, Williams said Jerome was still living in the same area where he had faced the criminal problems that had so recently threatened to derail his life. Williams wondered if that caught up to BTY YoungN on Saturday.
“You just have to leave that neighborhood totally,” he said. “You have to become a different person. This city is so small, and it’s so hard for some of these guys to do that because it’s so small.”
“But you can’t straddle the fence,” Williams continued. “You can’t walk with God while holding the devil’s hand.”
Anyone with information on the fatal shooting of Desmone “BTY YoungN” Jerome is asked to call NOPD Homicide Detective Clinton Givens at 504-658-5300. You may also call Crimestoppers anonymously at 504-822-1111 or toll-free at 1-877-903-STOP.