On Troy Ave, Capital STEEZ & Finding Compassion in Suicide
This verse was ghost written by Capital STEEZ, I’m high cause I fly with Loriana’s angel wings — 47 Bars
The night was far from young when the phone unexpectedly rang. A voice didn’t greet me when I answered but the breathless sobbing of a friend in a darkhole of distress. Words barely escaped through the inconsolable tears but one sentence seeped through all the pain, “I don’t want to live anymore.” I called her cell again and again but there was no answer. Texts, tweets and emails were sent without response. I called the house phone, hoping her dad would pick up, no answer. Dead, absolute silence. She was in Boston, a 17 hour drive away, on the verge of doing something she couldn’t reverse. I felt powerless.
A better Christian would have got down on their knees and prayed for an ultralight beam but there was something about her voice, the depth of her sorrow, that broke me into stillness. In silence I sat and waited in the dark for a call to come, a second chance to say more, do more, anything to help her from that mental ledge. I fell asleep waiting. The call would come unexpectedly the next evening, a weak voice apologizing, explaining, walking me through the hell that brought on the breakdown.
It changes you, once you hear in someone’s voice the conviction of hopelessness. We know tomorrow isn’t promised but imagine if you didn’t see any promise in tomorrow? That’s what I heard on the phone. That’s what I saw when the news broke about Capital STEEZ. At first it baffled me, Pro Era was being heralded as the kids that would resurrect the essence of New York and the Golden Era, they were going up and going far. Why quit when the game was just getting good?
Then I thought of her, how good things seemed to be leading up to that night and all the unspoken demons and skeletons that almost dragged her under. Something was eating STEEZ alive from the inside, something dragged him down so far only death felt like an escape. It fills you with sadness to know he saw his ending when those that believed in him saw the beginning. It could’ve been depression, a mental disorder, a combination, we will never know but the why doesn’t matter, not when a life is lost. The questions that get left behind weighs heaviest on the minds of those that were the closest, it eats at you from the inside, a tragic merry-go-round of pain.
Troy Ave decided to piss on the grave of Capital STEEZ in his diss song toward Joey Bada$$ — the lyrics are disrespectful, disgraceful and despicable, but there’s no kindness in war and with his words he meant to cut Joey deep. If attention is what Troy sought, then he successfully received plenty. He isn’t the first rapper to talk ill of the dead and as long as beef exists it’s likely he won’t be the last. Troy has to live with that decision and face whatever consequence or karma is born from his deplorable rhyme.
What bothered me is what happened after, when Troy called into Sway In The Morning and further elaborated on his views of suicide. He takes the stance as a soldier of God and exclaims, “God gave you life, it ain’t your right to take that.” He isn’t wrong in his religious beliefs, murder is a sin and to kill yourself is usually seen as the ultimate sin because you can’t repent and ask for forgiveness. I was raised Christian, far from a model saint but I’ve been around Christians my whole life and many view suicide in a similar way as Troy. He goes on further to say, “Your friends speak to your character. I got friends killing shit, his friends are killing themselves.” There’s a reference to rape that’s too cringe worthy to write but he stands firm with his decision to not only bring STEEZ into the beef but demean the tragedy of his death.
“Steez burning in Hell, my burner’s in my belt / I’m really killing shit, you niggas killing yourself / Fucking weirdos, off the roof, “Steer clear yo!”
Troy sees STEEZ as a, “weirdo,” “bozo,” and “dickhead” that was high off drugs, killed himself and is burning in hell. He sees any kind of celebration of his life an an endorsement of suicide. Yet his judgement toward STEEZ is based on an idea that’s not exactly clarified in the word of God. There’s no passage or scripture that states without question the consequences of killing yourself. Yes, you aren’t supposed to kill, and yes, we all have a due date that is out of our hands and yes, our bodies are temples of God, but none of this equates to eternal sin. The only sin that is unforgivable is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Troy has no right to place judgement or take a holier-than-thou stance against a young man who was in trouble. According to The FADER, STEEZ was found with a Bible clutched to his chest. He was raised Christian, his views and ideologies changed as he got older, but I’m assuming he knew the word. Unfortunately, it didn’t give him the strength he needed. It’s not something to look down upon, these days get dark, and the fact that Troy has homies doing life in prison should tell him the Bible and God isn’t enough to keep us from falling short of his expectations. We’re born sinners, imperfect beings, no one better, no one worse.
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (1 Corinthians 3:16–17)
The thing about Troy that bothers me most, that goes beyond any religious belief, is that he lacks any empathy for a 19-year-old that jumped from a building to his doom. Not just a kid but a fellow rapper, someone from the same state that raised him. There is a problem with mental health and suicide in the industry that shouldn’t be spat upon. When Kendrick released “i” he said it was for inmates and suicidal teenagers. It wasn’t until the album, until hearing “u,” that we realize that even the man that told us to love ourselves struggles with self-love. It’s a chilling, naked truth when he closes with, “Money can’t stop a suicidal weakness.”
Even after becoming famous, successful, acclaimed and making money, none of that mattered alone in that hotel room. What if Kendrick never made it out? What if it ended right then and there without us knowing about the cinder blocks that were tied to his soul? You can picture it, him holding that black revolver, standing in front of the mirror screaming, “You gotta go,” devoured by the secrets he kept to himself. If Troy Ave can hear “u” and see this level of mental torture and fix his lips to call Kendrick a “weirdo,” “bozo” or “dickhead” then he’s no warrior of God in my eyes but ignorant and callous.
I’m fucked up, but I’m not as fucked up as you / You just can’t get right, I think your heart made of bullet proof / Shoulda killed yo ass a long time ago / You shoulda filled that black revolver blast a long time ago / And if those mirrors could talk it would say “you gotta go” / And if I told your secrets / The world’ll know money can’t stop a suicidal weakness
Suicide to some is looked at as the ultimate act of weakness. Considered a cowardly act by the frail-hearted. Men, especially black men, are expected to man up, suck it up, stand tall even when their knees are weak. Joe Budden once rapped on his 2009 album, Escape Route, “I’mma call you a coward if you alive and suicidal [WHY?], Either be grateful for everything God said you supposed to get, Or pull the trigger and get over it.” It always rubbed me the wrong way, his stance made it seem like the decision was simple. That to even succumb to the thought of ending your life is such a travesty against all your blessings that you should just get it over with.
On his 2014 album, Some Love Lost, Joe has a song called “Only Human,” which details a moment during a deep depression that almost ended in his own suicide. Based on his previous perspective he should’ve just pulled the trigger but it’s not that easy. I don’t think anyone of us are immune to these feelings, all it takes is a dark enough period in our lives to feel so lost and alone that the only escape route is to end it all. For Joey it was enough to hear from his Pastor, faith can be enough when it fills a void and pushes you forward into the next day, but voids can become black holes that can swallow you.
I ain’t tell her just the other day that that gun was in my lap / Pen and pad in my hand, and I was writing a note / Didn’t get far, as soon as I wrote down “mom” I just stopped / Couldn’t lie to her, couldn’t figure out how to say bye to her / Couldn’t explain the “why” to her / Couldn’t picture / her getting a call or somebody saying her son had died to her / And shortly after that my pastor called / Which at first I kinda thought it was weird / But that convo preserved me, ‘bout God’s grace and mercy / He ain’t even say goodbye, he said “let us pray”
Ab-Soul’s Control System has a song called “Book Of Soul” that is by far his most powerful record. He explains his tragic eye condition, skin disfigurement, the black lips, all conditions that he suffered from before going to junior high. You can imagine that must’ve been rough for a teenager cursed with a rotten hand but he found a girl, Alori Joh, who went from being a friend he copied off in class to the girlfriend that swam through the music industry with him. She put out one mixtape, The Love Religion, in 2005. She came in the door with Ab-Soul which is why you can hear her on mixtape records like Kendrick’s “HiiPower” and ScHoolboy Q’s “PHenomenon” before her death. Unfortunately, she also committed suicide by jumping off a radio tower. Much like STEEZ, the details are scarce. Ab-Soul gives the most insight during “Book Of Soul” as he spills his entire heart out. It’s sad, one song no matter how many times it’s been heard still strikes me right in the chest. It’s an example of how hard and painful the loss of a loved one is, especially through suicide. You don’t recover from the trauma, you just learn to live with it.
I guess the Mayans wasn’t lyin’ / 2012, my world ended / You used to say that I could see the future / You was wrong, cause you was in it / And I was just with you the day before / You said you loved me, I said I loved you more / And as much I wanna cower and bid the mic adieu / And fall off a fucking tower tryna find you / I gotta stay cause I remember that day / I looked you in the face and told you / Nothing can stop me, not even you
There’s too much pain leftover from tragedies that end in self-inflicted death for me not to feel something. I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t know what’s going to happen when the final hour is upon us. Even after sleeping through countless Bible study classes I’m still not sure. I trust that there’s a power higher than mine. Kendrick captures my mentality on Christianity best, “I rather not live like there isn’t a God than die and find out there really is.” Yet, that won’t stop me from mourning and celebrating those that don’t always align with what I believe in. We can co-exist respectfully.
Suicide is a problem for the old and the young, the last thing we need is more toxic views. Especially in hip-hop, there’s a lot of mental strain and depression that is starting to become openly admitted. It’s good, showing how progressive this era truly is. It’s a battle, a struggle, one that you shouldn’t have to fight alone. Maybe it’s what he believes or just the beef that has Troy missing the bigger picture, but his statement has only reaffirmed that I never want to be someone who is so blinded by my beliefs that I can’t see with eyes of empathy.
Long live Capital STEEZ. At least hear on Earth, his spirit lives on.
Originally published at DJBooth.net on March 3, 2016.