By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Jamal Dewar tweeted the words "The end" on Dec. 23, 2012. The next day he took his own life. He was 19.
The news of his passing spread rapidly when his friend Jovaughn Scott tweeted his condolences. Scott is better known as rapper Joey Bada$$ of Flatbush's Pro Era clique, second only to A$AP Mob on a list titled Next Big Thing in New York. Dewar rapped, too. He was better known as Capital STEEZ.
His mysterious and untimely death has cast STEEZ as a kind of a cult figure in Flatbush's thriving hip-hop scene. The lack of official information concerning his suicide has led to conspiracy theories sprouting like weeds in the fertile soil of the Internet. Speculation about his mental health has also run rampant.
For instance: STEEZ believed he'd become a Baphomet, an occult deity invoked by the Church of Satan. Another theory posited that STEEZ passed a week after a meeting between Jay-Z and Joey Bada$$. The Illuminati had STEEZ killed. On they went, and on they go.
Capital STEEZ began rapping in 2009 (known then as Jay Steez), but things really took off for the gifted lyricist just over a year ago, when he guested on Bada$$'s "Survival Tactics." STEEZ raps with vim and precision on the track. Its video features him and Bada$$ descending on Wall Street in panda masks. The song became an underground anthem and STEEZ took off. To date, nearly 3 million people have watched the two rapping pandas take Wall Street. Next came STEEZ's AmeriKKKan Korruption mixtape, which firmly established him as a talent to be reckoned with and as Pro Era's second in command.
STEEZ is credited with bringing together Pro Era with like-minded groups Flatbush Zombies and the Underachievers under the umbrella known as Beast Coast. Together, the three groups are creating some of the city's most acclaimed hip-hop. Beast Coast are currently finishing up a national tour that sees them back in New York at Gramercy Theatre on April 20. The homecoming is being billed as "a concert in honor of late Pro Era co-founder Capital STEEZ."
"STEEZ is the best thinker I know; he taught me how to think," says the Underachievers' Issa Dash. "Beast Coast wouldn't exist without him. He was the one who brought the idea to me, that we needed to link all groups."
This family of artists shares a geographical bond—"Coming live from Flatbush Junction," as STEEZ himself once rapped—but also a belief in New Age spirituality. Songs from Beast Coast artists are filled with copious references to the "third eye" of perception and allusions to astral traveling (often with a little help from psychedelics). STEEZ and the Underachievers refer to themselves as "indigos"—a reference to a theory from the 1970s that claims children radiating an indigo-colored aura are blessed with higher-than-normal intuition, and thus capable of supernatural feats. Dash wants to imbue his music with a mysticism rarely seen in rap, a goal he credits to STEEZ. "He got me thinking outside the box," says Dash. "He told me, 'Let's try and put the fuckin' holes in the dimensions.'"
STEEZ's desire to puncture the dimensions was bringing him to some odd, dark places. There's ample evidence online that the abyss he was gazing into had begun to gaze back.
In a video shot in March for his song "Free the Robots," STEEZ sits on a couch in a dimly lit room, getting high while watching news and pop culture on TV. In it he raps paranoid sentiments about being forgotten by God, the soon-to-come apocalypse, and how the "Illuminati tryna read my mind/With a eagle eye."
In a video on the Mass Appeal website in October, STEEZ claimed he could astral project and see "deeper into the future." He also made reference to "some 47 shit." The number held much significance to the rapper, appearing often in his rhymes, and on the cover of his mixtape. STEEZ's last tweet came on a date—12/23/12—that adds up to 47.
On July 11 he used his Facebook wall to announce that "DOOMSDAY" would occur in 2047. On the same day a fan asked him, via Facebook, why—with the powers of transcendence he claimed to possess—he didn't just break free from this reality and create his own world. His reply: "That is exactly what I am about to do. #47shit," and a vague prediction that, before the year ended, an "Alchemist" would rise up and reveal the key to world peace. He then added, "Eye think it's me."
The director of "Free the Robots," K.R.S.P.'s Luke Choi, recalls STEEZ being "zoned out" during the shoot in April. He remembers STEEZ telling him he planned to quit rapping to "become a superhero" and that there had been a "shift in the dimension" that meant he had to "get out."
Until, finally, he did.
In addition to this week's concert in his honor, Bada$$ recently announced that Capital KING, a posthumous compilation of STEEZ's music, was in the works. It, sadly, will truly be "The end."
Joey Bada$$ & Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and Underachievers perform at Gramercy Theatre on April 20, 7 p.m., $15, thegramercytheatre.com