Shouldn’t have happened.
More of this bullshit: on Saturday night, as Busta Rhymes was filming the video for the all-star remix of “Touch It” in Brooklyn, someone started shooting into a crowd of people. Now Israel Ramirez, the guy in charge of Busta’s cache of jewelry, is dead. He was 30. He had three kids. It’s ridiculous.
According to news reports, the video’s crew had tried to clear as many extras as possible from the soundstage where the video was filming. A few people weren’t happy about that. The Daily News reports that one guy, wearing a G-Unit jacket, shouted, “Who the fuck are you to tell me to be quiet? I’m on parole, motherfucker!” This doesn’t mean that the shooter was one of the people cleared from the set, and I have no idea if it’s even the same person who started yelling, but Allhiphop.com reports that police are seeking Tony Yayo for questioning about a heated argument that took place shortly before the shooting.
The shooting took place out front of Kiss the Cactus studios in Greenpoint. I’m not quite certain of this, but I think Kiss the Cactus is the soundstage where Michel Gondry filmed the White Stripes video that I was in a few months ago. If it was the same place, I can see how the shoot could’ve become crowded and chaotic. The soundstage itself is just one big room, and there’s not a whole lot else at the studio: a medium-sized dining room upstairs, a few small dressing rooms, and a cramped kitchen and waiting area. That’s it. When you factor in all the rappers that were there and all those rappers’ entourages, along with all the crew, wardrobe, makeup, and caterers, it must’ve been hard to find room to breathe inside the building. The two recent remixes to “Touch It” feature seven different rappers: Busta, DMX, Missy Elliott, Rah Digga, Lloyd Banks, Papoose, and a rapping-not-singing Mary J. Blige. When both remixes are edited together, as on the Tapemasters’ On Air Collection Vol. 7 mixtape, the end result is almost ten minutes long, a completely garbage clubbed jam that wears out its welcome before it’s halfway over. From what I can tell, all those rappers were there for the video shoot, as were 50 Cent, Diddy, Raekwon, boxer Winky Wright, and Yankee Gary Sheffield, all there to make cameos. I’ve only been to a rap video shoot once: Ghostface’s “Back Like That” two weeks ago. Ghostface didn’t have very many dudes there: ten at the most, and a few of those guys had roles in the video. Most of them seemed like nice guys, and no one interfered in the filming. But the video crew had reserved the entire rooftop deck of a Jersey City apartment complex for the video, so everyone had space to move around without getting in the way, including me and the two Vice magazine guys there to interview Ghostface. If all the celebrities present at Saturday night’s shoot had anywhere near the number of people in their entourages that Ghostface did, the shoot would’ve gotten crowded fast.
Most of the press accounts of the shooting seem to imply that the shooter was some deranged, short-fused sociopath who was mad at getting sent away from the shoot who then came back and started firing off bullets in retribution. If that was the case, though, it would seem to follow that more than one person would’ve been hit. Thinking about it today, it seems at least as likely that someone might’ve just been after the jewelry that Ramirez was guarding. I should stop speculating, though. I wasn’t there, and I have no idea what really happened.
What I do know, though, is that this insane tragedy is just going to reinforce rap’s overwhelmingly negative public image. Rap might dominate pop culture now in a way that no other genre of music can claim, and Diddy might’ve been on TV eighteen hours after the shooting in a Super Bowl Diet Pepsi commercial, but much of the media is still going to take any available opportunity to make rappers look like crazy savages. In its story on the shooting, the Daily News included a sidebar on rap-related violence in New York. The front page of the Post this morning screams, “Bling Bling, Bang Bang,” and someone actually got paid to think up that headline. In the end, it doesn’t even matter whether the shooting had anything to do with rap music. Everyone is just going to remember this as another rap shooting, and that’s a shame. Israel Ramirez deserves better.
Voice review: Harry Allen on Busta Rhymes’ Genesis