'Who the kids gonna look up to?' Family and friends remember Annapolis rapper Edward Montre Seay

amann@capgaznews.com

It took the greater rap world until almost 2017 to figure out what Edward Montre Seay’s family and friends had known for decades: The guy could rhyme.

Better known as rap artist Tre Da Kid, Seay’s star began to rise when he emerged from thousands of contestants to reach the final of the national Freestyle 500 Challenge in 2016.

At 29, he stepped on the stage of an Atlanta nightclub shortly before Christmas. With each round dropped another opponent, the Annapolis born-and-raised rapper out-witting and out-rhyming everyone. The panel of five judges unanimously crowned “the dude in the red coat” champion. His star soared.

A bright career ended tragically less than three years later, when Seay, now 32, was found shot to death Friday night in a car along Forest Drive — just down the road from where he grew up in the town he vowed to put on the map with his new found fame.

“This is not the way that his story was supposed to end,” said Lesley Michelle Sedgwick, Seay’s older sister. “He had so much more that he wanted to do.”

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Three days have passed since his killing and Annapolis police have yet to make an arrest or identify a motive.

At a vigil for her brother Tuesday evening, Sedgwick said there’s only one thing her family asks for: a stop to the gun violence.

Barely holding back sobs, Sedgwick told the gathered crowd in the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center that Seay was the third family member she has lost in two years to gun violence in Annapolis.

“I can’t do any more funerals, I can’t do any more vigils, I can’t light any more candles,” she proclaimed, tears pouring down her face. “I’m tired and you should be tired too.”

His family and friends focus on the legacy he leaves, Sedgwick said. She remembers the December night when her brother found some fame.

The Georgia club was packed 600 to 700 people deep, she said. Most competitors were local, by her estimation, as they arrived with large entourages.

She was one of maybe 10 there to cheer on Seay, with one notable absence from his support group. His mother died of a stroke two months earlier. Seay found her after she collapsed.

Her brother was quiet in the corner praying as he awaited his moment. “None of us were humble on his behalf… at all,” Sedgwick said. They screamed when he won, she remembered. Seay just pointed his hands in the air and said, “I did it.”

“It would’ve caused an arrogance for most people, but it just didn’t do that to him,” Sedgwick said.

And that was no surprise to those that knew him, she said. They knew him as a humble man: a dedicated father to his 8-year-old son, Trenton, daytime detailer at Annapolis Subaru and proud Annapolitan.

He and his son shared a special bond, beyond tossing the football and shooting hoops.

“It didn’t really matter what they did together, as long as they were together,” Sedgwick said.

They had a little handshake with a rhyme:

“What can you do” Seay would ask his son.

“Anything,” Trenton would respond.

“Where are you going to go?”

“College.”

Seay dreamed big for his son and told Trenton he could achieve anything with hard work, said Darnell Green, Seay’s coworker at the Subaru dealership.

“He would say, ‘When my son gets older, he’s definitely going to the NFL,’” Green remembered.

The freestyle contest victory came with a $10,000 check, a contract with hip hop label 300 Entertainment and the opportunity to tour with one of its recording artists. Some may have sought to use the victory as their ticket away from home. Not Seay.

“When he won that contest, I felt like this it, ‘Tre, you don’t need to be here anymore,’” Green said.

But he was a dedicated father and returned to work cleaning cars. His manager said he was reliable and that the dealership gave him some freedom to chase his musical dreams.

When it came time to shoot a music video to pair with his single with 300 Entertainment, Seay chose Annapolis, Sedgwick said. “It was important to him to stay here and include his friends and family.”

Part of the video was filmed in Newtowne 20, a public housing development Seay rapped about getting his son out of — not far from where he was found dead.

He lived by a simple creed, Sedgwick said: Love my son, make great music and put my city on the map.

Seay rapped about his roots in his latest album, “TDK: Titles Define Kings.” In one song he describes the three bedroom Forest Hills apartment he grew up in.

It was in that apartment on Melrob Court, Sedgwick said, where his musical interest was born. He had a great relationship with his late father and namesake, who was a DJ and kept “crates upon crates upon crates” of music in the house.

“I was learning how to DJ messing with pop’s equipment. Scratched his ‘Thriller’ vinyl, then I gotta whip it,” Seay rhymed on the track “6 Melrob.”

Michael Jackson was his favorite, though Seay had access to everything from opera to R&B, Sedgwick said. “You didn’t know if it was the lyrics or the music… Sometimes a song would come on and he would rap over the entire thing.”

Seay embraced his elevated profile, family and friends said. A 2005 graduate of Annapolis High School, he spoke to students at his alma mater and children at community centers.

“Keeping the kids off the streets was huge for him... He didn’t want to see any more youth in jail,” Sedgwick said. They could see his success, but “he wanted to show them the hard work behind the scenes. (That) you can’t be a rapper without education.”

Not long before he was shot dead, Sedgwick said she sat down with her brother to outline short-term goals. Seay was the budding talent, Sedgwick the business mind.

Seay wanted to increase his market, she said. “I told him ‘You’re so talented you need to become everyone’s favorite rapper.’”

They came up with a social media plan, she said, one that transcended “TDK Tuesdays,” where he’d post a freestyle rap video to his social media pages. They also strategized about broadening his work in the community.

Green, 39, said he didn’t have a local superhero — role model — to look up to growing up in Annapolis. “Montre’s honestly the first person we’ve seen like this.”

As Seay rapped on “Reckless Youth,” the final song on his 2015 album: “Who the kids gonna look up to?”

Staff Writer Angela Roberts contributed to this story.

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