Jay Hill, the host of a popular Baltimore rap series on YouTube, often asks high schoolers and peers which rappers have the biggest buzz in the city. Lately, one name kept coming up: Nick Breed.
“It wasn’t even like, ‘You should get familiar,’ ” Hill said. “It was like ‘You need to get this guy on.’ ”
Born Dominic Gantt, the rapper who grew up in Edmondson Village recorded his “No Ghostwriter” YouTube freestyle Thursday. Three days later, around 7:30 p.m. Sunday, he was shot and killed in the 500 block of Normandy Ave. in the Allendale neighborhood of West Baltimore. He was 24. The Baltimore Police Department did not know of a motive, a spokeswoman said.
His death sends a heartbreaking message to the youth of the neighborhood, said Lynn Forman, a Baltimore Ceasefire ambassador who lives in Edmondson Village.
“It puts a dark cloud over all the children who believed that they can get out of the city without losing their lives — that they can do something,” said Forman, whose daughters — both Nick Breed fans — are 16 and 12. “The hopelessness that this city already has, when you lose somebody like this, it just doubles that.”
She described him as “the neighborhood rock star,” the type of person who would make a kid’s day by posing for an Instagram photo.
Online court records reveal a checkered past for Gantt: gun and drug charges, accusations of assault and first- and second-degree murder. Days before he was killed, he was charged with harassment. Attorneys who represented him in the past could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
But people close to Gantt, including his girlfriend, Jordan Frink, said Gantt’s lyrics were becoming increasingly positive and reflecting his faith in God. He was also a visible supporter of the Baltimore Ceasefire anti-violence movement, and planned to attend the next events in November, Forman said.
“The city definitely lost, I would say, a great influence, a positive influence,” Hill said. “His talent was different because he was so popular, but the message he was giving was so unique."
Hill said Gantt had just finished writing his freestyle before he arrived at his studio. His presence that day was full of positivity, he said. Gantt stood out in a sea of aspiring rappers because he was able to connect with kids with a message that “you don’t have to take the negative route, and you can believe in a higher being,” Hill said.
In the “No Ghostwriter” freestyle, Gantt rapped: “I thank the Lord that he saved me … I’m the one from the pavement / came up from nothing, don’t blame me / I’m thankful I’m not the same.”
While his more recent output emphasized progress, songs from earlier in Gantt’s career bluntly described the harsh realities of street life in Baltimore. “The Purge,” which has more than 300,000 views on YouTube, features Gantt rapping, “I’m from the Village, I kill in designer / Hit a n----, take a trip to the island / Dropping money because he ain’t about the violence.”
The 23-year-old, born Tyriece Watson, was killed in a shooting as he left an appearance at an anti-violence event at Morgan State University. Police said Watson’s death was a retaliatory killing; Watson’s friend Fred Catchings shot a friend of Cortez Mitchell, a person of interest in Watson’s homicide. Mitchell was found shot to death in West Baltimore in October 2016.
With the deaths of prominent “hood celebrities” like Watson and Gantt, Forman said, kids from the neighborhood are becoming “numb” to tragedy. To see a local celebrity who had supported nonviolence efforts gunned down makes it feel like “nothing is going to change,” she said.
Notable fans like boxer Gervonta Davis and fellow local rappers, including Creek Boyz and Tate Kobang, took to social media over the past few days to mourn the loss of Gantt.
“We’re losing too many of our Kings — who’s going to raise the new ones? Who going to hold our Queens and future Queens and tell them that everything is going to be alright? Rest easy King,” said Tate Kobang in a text message to The Baltimore Sun.
Forman said she plans to speak with other Ceasefire organizers about how to incorporate a tribute to Gantt at the next rally. While she ultimately believes the movement is making progress toward safer neighborhoods, the news of Gantt’s killing feels deflating, she said.
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“It’s just really, really frustrating,” Forman said. “Now we’re planning a funeral for somebody who had just started to tap into their greatness.”