I’m on the curb near the entrance of Old Town Mall with Red$ and FMG Dez. A couple of others are scattered around us–– some young boys, some women, some outsiders, and couple of old heads. We are waiting for a few others to arrive, so that Red$ could shoot the first in a series of memorial videos for slain Baltimore rapper FMG Twizzle.
Twizzle, 26, whose government name was Antoine Johnson, was murdered on June 8 steps away from where we sit and was one of three murders that day, bringing the city’s homicide count up to 13 for the month of June.
Across from us is a huge two-football-fields-size patch of grass that used to be Somerset Housing projects, the neighborhood where Twizzle grew up and earned his reputation back when he was a teenager for being a raw and gritty street rapper who strapped his hood on his back and brought their energy with him every time he hit the studio.You can see that energy and the love he received from many parts of the city in his YouTube videos for ‘Trapping Like Ah Fool,’ and the remakes of ‘ChiRaq’ and ‘Hot Nigga.’ Each video features Twizzle with East Baltimore dudes as the backdrop from every section of our side of town, ranging from the projects to Zone 18.
The cameraman and the rest of the crew arrives. I sit on the sideline with FMG Dez and watch Red$ perform his new single ‘Charged,’ a track that documents the lifestyle that every street kid dreams about—fast money, fast cars, and fast women.
Some cops roll up in a SUV and ask everyone to walk down the street. They weren’t the first on the set. I saw knockers in a black Altima, a regular cop car, and some weirdos circling the block who had to be cops because I never saw them around here before. I don’t understand why police officers are always so excited to break up rap videos. Shooting a video is legal, no one gets hurt, it unites the community, and it’s creative. Video shoots guarantee that 90 percent of a hood will not be committing crimes and foolishly, cops always shut them down.
“We’ll finish shooting when they leave,” says Red$. He was a close friend of Twizzle; the two often identified as brothers. Where we are from, loyalty makes you family. Twizzle and Red$ met down the ’jects when they were kids and have been tight ever since—even after death. “We gonna finish this today, because I talked to Twizzle this morning, I was gonna cancel it but he told me not to let his death stop the video shoot! He told me to cut up for him and keep pushin’!”
Twizzle was pushing as well: A week before his death he wrapped up his mixtape “Streets Been Waitin’ Vol. 2.” The hood already dubbed part one a classic. He performed at a number of different venues, including a performance in the District with FMG Dez at Echostage.
“Our D.C. show was live. The promoter told us it was sold out and I looked at Twizzle and said, ‘Yo you heard that? You ready? It’s going to be 5000 people out there!’ Twizzle said hell yeah and the whole time I was the nervous one! But we killed it man Twizzle was always ready,” says FMG Dez, the CEO of Flawless Music Group who Twizzle has been affiliated with since 2012. “ It’s a sad day in our town, man. The Baltimore rap scene definitely lost out on a great talent and personality. Twizzle was very genuine and humble, very mature for his age.”
Twizzle is the first member of FMG to die. Most of the FMG artists are in low spirits and have been since the tragic news, giving Dez the unforeseen responsibility of energizing his crew in this time of mourning. “Twizzle’s death gave us a greater mission. We must continue to tell these stories, put out music, and keep his legacy alive. Twizzle was a great man and father and will definitely be missed on personal and musical level. We are going to make sure Twizzle lives forever.”
FMG has a fund set up for Twizzle’s funeral arrangements at Wylie Funeral Home on Mount St. The cops leave and Red$ wraps his video. Then we all set down at the Mall for a few hours building, reminiscing, and celebrating Twizzle and life in general, which in Baltimore seems more and more at risk every day.