"He was Baltimore and Baltimore was him," said Nick Mosby. He was standing in front of West Baltimore rapper Lor Scoota's white casket in the center of Jamal Bryant's Faith Empowerment Temple, which was filled with around 700 mourners of all ages. Mosby called Scoota a "hood poet, a trap poet" who rapped about "what people go through on a daily basis."
When the time came for Bryant's eulogy, which was based both on the Biblical story of killing the messenger Saul and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," he addressed the drugs and violence in Scoota's lyrics. "You can't be mad with the messenger," he said. "If you don't like the message, change what the messenger is seeing."
As he praised Scoota, whom he called "an incredible Baltimorean," Bryant dissed nearly everyone else, including the Baltimore Sun, NPR, the police, Korean business owners, "Arabs who will sell you fried chicken," "Vietnamese hair sellers," and various local politicians.
"I am sorry that the mayor is not here, the president of city council is not here, the governor is not here," he said at one point. At another he said: "I wish the police would come in riot gear and surround Annapolis, where the real looters are."
PFK Boom and Big Wolfe, who came together with Bryant after a video-taped confrontation with Bryant went viral, sat quietly on one side. As the sermon went on, people leapt to their feet, raised their hands, and cheered. The only part of the giant sanctuary that was mostly silent was the press balcony, which, in a weird reversal of the court scenes in "To Kill a Mockingbird," had become Honky Heaven, featuring the only white people at the funeral, as HBO camera crews, TV reporters, and members of the national press checked their cell phones and photographers used Hubble-like lenses to zoom in on the grief below.
It was hard not to notice, in the moment—especially at the beginning when Scoota's mom was weeping and stomping her feet in front of the casket—that so much of his music is about living with pain. It is the reason that the junkies keep coming back for the scramble, coke, and smack, it is the reason that people both work at and patronize Norma Jean's.
But when they carried the casket out into the sweltering sun, it was not a media circus. People were both protective and respectful, making sure the family was able to crowd into a car and get to the repast, where they would celebrate Tyriece Watson, not Lor Scoota, before the public celebration of the rapper would resume later in the afternoon, at a community block party scheduled for 4 p.m. on the 1500 block of Pennsylvania Avenue.