When Dawan Brown first met Ikemefuna “Justin” Eguh, Eguh was going by the stage name “Jignasttyy.”
But the name didn’t fit, Brown recalled, so he worked with Eguh and his music manager to find a new name. They landed on “Jigavelii” — an homage to Jay-Z and Tupac Shakur.
Eguh was quiet like Jay-Z and mysterious like philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, who Shakur modeled his stage name, “Makaveli,” after, said Brown, who signed Eguh to his New Jersey-based record label in 2018.
It fit, and Eguh — or “JiG” — was beginning to see successes in the industry, racking up more than 19,000 followers on Instagram and hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. Brown said he’d had a conversation Jan. 9 with the artist about how to take his music to “the next level.”
But two days later, Eguh was dead.
The 23-year-old Towson University student was shot and killed around 2 a.m. Jan. 11 in what’s being investigated as a homicide, police have said. He was found in the unit block of West Susquehanna Ave., near the Baltimore County Police Department’s Towson precinct.
County police spokeswoman Joy Stewart said Thursday that detectives have not identified a suspect or determined a connection between Eguh and a perpetrator.
The precinct’s Community Action Team has been detailed in the area on different shifts to “prevent and deter crime” and the agency has reached out to business and property owners with crime prevention tips and strategies, Stewart said.
Metro Crime Stoppers of Maryland has offered a $2,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call county detectives at 410-307-2020.
“It’s a sad situation,” Brown said, recalling that Eguh was the first artist he’d signed to the label. “He was a respectful, quiet, well-spoken kid. … I wouldn’t see why nobody would want to do this to my boy.”
Towson University officials said Eguh was a senior enrolled as an exercise science major. He was originally from East Orange, New Jersey, the university said in a release, and went by “Justin” to friends.
University spokesman Matt Palmer declined to comment further, saying police were handling the investigation and questions surrounding it.
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Lynn Hobson, who was hired by the record label to be Eguh’s publicist, said he was “right at the finish line,” close to completing his degree and with a music career that was “about to take off.”
Of the several hip-hop artists she represented, Eguh was “by far” her favorite because he was so well-rounded, able to juggle school, the coronavirus pandemic and a passion for music, Hobson said. When she found out he’d been killed, she was shocked.
“It really took me out,” Hobson said. “He had a plan and goals, and he was almost there.”
Brown and Hobson described Eguh as a quiet, respectful person with a strong work ethic around his schoolwork and his music, often traveling with both his laptop for classwork and his recording setup. He wrote his own music and was called a “beautiful writer.”
“He was just a light,” Hobson said. “His energy. He wouldn’t even need to speak. He would just crack that smile, that cute kid smile, and just light up the room.”
A Morgan State University student, Barry Ransom, 21, was killed in Towson in October. Stewart said his death was an “isolated incident” and that there was no reason to believe it was connected to Eguh’s killing. Police have charged a man named Kevin Sharp in Ransom’s death, which they described in charging documents as a marijuana robbery gone wrong.
“Our officers have been working tirelessly, day in and day out, in order to ensure the safety and security of all individuals in Baltimore County, and they will continue to do so,” Stewart said in an emailed statement. “Baltimore County remains a [safe] place for families and students alike.”