Around 7 p.m. on Saturday evening, Tyriece Watson, better known as the West Baltimore rapper Lor Scoota, was shot in his car on Harford Road near Moravia Road. The shooter, according to the police, stepped in front of the car and fired, hitting Scoota at least once. Scoota, who was 23, died later at the hospital. His death was announced around 8:30 p.m.
Lor Scoota was one of the city's most beloved rappers. He is best known for 2014's 'Bird Flu,' a catchy ode to hustling whose hook goes, "I think I got the bird flu/ I’m tired of selling packs I think I need a bird or two/ We selling scramble, coke, and smack/ Keep them junkies coming back." The song brought with it a playful Bird Flu dance that has been a party hit for people of all ages (go search "Bird Flu dance" on YouTube and see).
It was also remixed into an even more hypnotic Baltimore club song by DJ Dizzy, received an official remix featuring Washington, D.C. rapper and Baltimore favorite Shy Glizzy, and was turned into a "sports remix" in the fall of 2014 commenting on the Orioles' playoff buzz and the Ravens' success. There, Scoota switched the hook to, "We bleed purple orange and black/ we rock purple orange and black." 'Bird Flu' is already a Baltimore classic pretty much, and many music industry insiders saw hope for the song to be a national hit.
The local success of 'Bird Flu,' in conjunction with the rise of East Baltimore rapper Young Moose, helped bring about a hip-hop renaissance to Baltimore, affording the city two clear compelling personalities, a template for streets-to-internet success, and national eyes on the city. Tellingly, even Baltimore's most well-known rapper right now, Tate Kobang, recently recorded a freestyle over the beat to 'Bird Flu.' And Scoota himself had been, over the past year or so, traveling to Los Angeles and New York, presumably courted by major labels. Among Scoota's other notable songs: 'King Me' and 'Norma Jean's.'
City Paper has consistently covered Scoota's career since 2014 but the piece we'll point readers to today is "Bigger Than Kendrick," by City Paper contributor J. Brian Charles about how "Baltimore uprising rap confounds the mainstream media's take on political hip-hop." In the piece, Charles makes connections between Scoota and other local rappers' style of music and the tradition of the blues. "Hip-hop has been the past two generations' iteration of the blues. It's not the music of the Delta, but of postmodern urban decay," Charles writes. "Hip-hop is not the blues of Sharecropping, Jim Crow, and the Great Migration, but of Reaganomics, white flight, and the drug war."
In particular, this paragraph which analyzes Scoota's track about street violence 'Ready Or Not' is particularly devastating given Scoota's shooting:
"Amid the ascent of the Black Lives Matter movement, Baltimore rapper Lor Scoota weaves together a line about how the killings permeate social arrangements and social media on his song 'Ready Or Not': “How I'm supposed to live with all this death in my sight/ Keep you niggas by your side because niggas dying left and right/ I see rest in peace on IG three times a night.” The lyrics don't condemn the killings. Not in the way Kendrick does on ‘The Blacker the Berry,’ where his condemnation of street violence comes wrapped in a broader denunciation of the community (“So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street, when gang banging made me kill a nigga blacker than me?”). But Lor Scoota doesn't have the luxury to explicitly denounce violence or the community. He is still surrounded by that violence, still navigating the community. His political statement is about the cost of survival, the need to stay close to your friends, the mental toll of repeatedly seeing the death on Instagram."
Scoota was also one of the city's more engaged rappers, frequently seen at community-oriented events and preaching non-violence. During the Baltimore uprising, Scoota recorded a series of PSAs which aired on 92Q expressing understanding for those that were angry but also encouraging peace. He was also part of a panel organized by Nick Mosby and Downtown Locker Room at Frederick Douglass High School that spoke to the students after April 27's rioting. And last month, Scoota posted a video of him at Samuel Coleridge Elementary School reading a book to students about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. And just before Scoota was shot and killed, he was the host of a "Touch the People, Pray For Peace in These Streets" charity basketball game at Morgan State University
Not long after Scoota's death last night, major rap figures Meek Mill and Yo Gotti both tweeted out tributes to Scoota. Locally, Scoota's name became the top trending topic in Baltimore.
About three hours after Scoota was shot, City Paper went to the location of the shooting. Save for some stray police tape, there was very little evidence that anything had taken place. Occasionally, people wandered by or parked their car to observe. A few cars also rolled down Harford Road blasting Scoota's music. Though hearing Scoota tracks like 'Bird Flu' and 'Norma Jean's' coming out of cars in Baltimore is common on any given night in Baltimore.
A vigil seems imminent.
Last night, around 11 p.m. live on 92Q, DJ Jay Claxton broadcasting from the S&S Lounge played 'Bird Flu.'
"We doing it for Scoota right now, R.I.P. to Scoota, Baltimore's own Scoota," Claxton told listeners. "We gotta stop this craziness right now yo, I'm serious, I'm serious. Too many of us leaving too soon. Condolences to the family."