Rap stars behind bars: Sacramento has locked up five gangster rappers for practicing what they rhyme
Following deadly Meadowview violence, recently freed Lavish D joins brother, Poppy Chulo, Stink and Lizk in the can
It began with a post-Independence Day message.
On July 5, Lavish D announced his return home from prison with an exuberant Instagram video. The Sacramento rapper, born Donald Oliver, sported a large gold ring on his finger and a stack of hundred dollar bills in his hand, meant to mimic a phone, as he imagined a conversation with himself and everybody who could view the video.
“You say what bitch? Lavish D out?” he said while smiling. “Oh yeah! Bitch it’s going down.”
Less than two months later, Oliver is back in jail for a parole violation that came amid a hail of gunfire, an unsolved murder and a reignited beef with a prominent rap foe.
He’s not the only one, either. Including Oliver, at least five self-styled gangster rappers are behind bars as law enforcement reacts to the violence that it says ripples from their social media taunts and gritty music videos.
The rappers say they’re simply making art that accurately depicts their dispossessed neighborhoods, saturated in poverty and crime.
“Our music is not who we are,” said one of those jailbirds, Deandre Marquis Rogers, a.k.a. Lizk (pronounced “Lix”), who’s in custody awaiting trial on felony gun charges. “But they just throwing us out.”
Blurring the line between vérité art and real-world thuggery isn’t new in the gangster rap kingdom. A few break out doing so. But for every Mozzy, who signed with a music label and traded Oak Park for Los Angeles, there are plenty who fly too close to reality.
Oliver’s seven weeks of freedom did prove fruitful while they lasted. His Instagram following grew to over 100,000 as he released a steady stream of music videos that amassed hundreds of thousands of views. The 33-year-old rapper was building toward the release of a new mixtape, 3 Years Later, and a posted FaceTime conversation with Bay Area rap legend E-40 sparked rumors that he had signed a record deal with E-40’s label Sick Wid It.
All of that momentum came to a halt on August 27, when Oliver attended a video shoot at Meadowview Park, where gunfire left four wounded and a 49-year-old man dead. The video shoot was for two songs by Sacramento rap mainstay C-Bo (whose real name is Shawn Thomas), a noted 29th Street Crip currently embroiled in a war of words with Mozzy, Sacramento’s largest rap act of the moment.
Oliver’s attendance at the video shoot had its own significance, as he too has been in a years-long feud with Mozzy, an Oak Park Bloods-affiliated rapper. As a member of rival gang the Starz, Oliver is alleged to have organized the beating of an Oak Park Bloods member in Footaction at Arden Fair mall back in 2013. Oliver pleaded no contest to gun and assault charges after he was arrested in Alabama in 2014, and served just over three years of that sentence before being released earlier this summer.
After the park shooting, Oliver took to Instagram to declare his innocence. “Whatever happened, happened. I ain’t got nothing to do with nothing. I ain’t do nothing,” he said in a since-deleted, minute-long video. “All I did was show up to a video shoot, trying to support my rapping partner, on some unity shit. Wasn’t no diss records being recorded or none of that shit.”
He denied partaking in any shooting before saying, “What y’all niggas trying to send me to jail or something?”
It proved a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Oliver was arrested the next day, officially cited for driving on a suspended license and violating his parole. According to Sacramento Superior Court’s online database, he pleaded guilty to the violation on September 6 and was sentenced to 90 days at the Sacramento County Main Jail. Oliver is scheduled to be released on October 13, but has a Solano County bench warrant for his arrest, for an unresolved misdemeanor, waiting when he does.
Even some who are critical of the influence local gangster rappers have on the younger generation say Oliver was arrested for symbolic reasons.
“Arresting Lavish D was a punk move,” said Berry Accius, founder of the Voice of the Youth mentoring program. “Because it wasn’t his fault. Should he have been there? Probably not. But he didn’t create that.”
Something similar was said when Oliver’s younger brother received a two-year prison sentence in May after pleading no contest to failing to appear in court.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s inmate locator shows the 29-year-old Deiondrea Oliver is at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy. The younger Oliver, who raps under the moniker Prince Dreda, missed the court date because he was in the hospital with complications from an unsolved shooting that nearly killed him a few months prior, he, his mother and defense attorney said.
Also at the Tracy prison, Todd Maurice Williams, 24, is doing a 15-year bit after a jury convicted him of two felony counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm in July. Williams sent a letter pleading his case to SN&R before his trial began. In it, Williams, who says he’s friends with Prince Dreda and raps as Stink, wrote that his music status drew the attention of local gang detectives.
“Now I’m not saying that being an Entertainer gives you the right to break the law or that Entertainers don’t commit crimes,” he wrote. “However I do feel we should have a fair chance at proving our innocents [sic], and shouldn’t be made targets for chasing our dreams.”
Lavish D hasn’t been connected to the Meadowview violence. No one has been arrested for the shooting death of Ernie Jessey Cadena at the 24th Street park, the Sacramento Police Department confirmed.
“We don’t have anybody in custody for [the shooting] yet,” said department spokeswoman Officer Linda Matthew. Calling it “still an active investigation at this point,” Matthew added that police were “not sure if it’s gang-related or not.”
Two days after Oliver was arrested, the Sacramento City Council agreed to fund a $1.5 million program called Advance Peace to combat gun violence. The council was set to discuss the program in September, but a special meeting was called in the wake of the Meadowview Park shooting, which politicians blamed on a simmering feud among gang-affiliated rappers.
The program especially seeks to reign in retaliatory gun violence by reaching the “small number of community members who are among the most likely victims of violence,” and drafting them in a three-year fellowship program, providing educational and economic opportunities to “young adults who are traditionally isolated from those services,” a staff report says.
There’s been controversy about the program’s approach, which includes offering stipends of up to $1,000 over a nine-month period to participants, and hiring reformed gang members to intervene in conflicts before they turn violent.
But the Richmond-born program claimed a 60 percent reduction in firearm assaults over a six-year period in the Bay Area city, which Sacramento hopes to replicate.
Rogers, or Lizk, wants to offer his services.
Calling SN&R from the same jail holding Lavish D and Rogers’ cousin Daniel “Poppy Chulo” Bush, the Meadoview native said the neighborhood park shooting “actually touched home for me.”
“I’m trying to do what I can to give back—and help myself,” he added.
Rogers has spent the past nine months in jail on two felony counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of knowingly transporting a machine gun. Rogers says he was riding in the back of a car with his girlfriend and a friend after getting sushi when police pulled them over late last year near Howe Avenue and Arden Way. Inside the car, he says, was a gun that wasn’t his.
Like the other rappers in his situation, he says prosecutors are using his rap videos against him; in this case, by arguing that a gun featured in one of his videos looks a lot like the Glock 21 semi-automatic pistol reportedly found in the car. “If I was anybody else, I wouldn’t be in here for this,” Rogers said.
The felony charges threaten a third strike for the 24-year-old, who pleaded no contest last year to felony counts of assault with a firearm and possessing a concealed firearm.
Noting Advance Peace’s goal of targeting likely shooters with the street reps to halt the violence, Rogers said, “I highly qualify for it, you feel me?”
Asked if that meant Rogers had committed gun violence, the rapper demurred, saying his criminal record spoke for itself. “I don’t want to say I’m a shooter, but the police, they know me,” he said.
Youth mentor Accius rolls his eyes a little at the notion that these rappers are just reflecting the grittier aspects of their reality, not partaking in it.
“It’s hard because, in some sense, I get that it’s entertainment value. But on the other [side], I feel that there’s a certain responsibility that we have to have as community members, as well as artists, on what kind of imagery we’re putting out and what we’re promoting,” he said. “There’s more to the community than just what they magnify. There’s more heart to the community. There’s more individuals that are trying to … do things outside of selling drugs, putting a girl out on the stroll or advertising this gangster lifestyle.
“Yeah, it sells, but you’re almost selling out your community and yourself by only depicting negative imagery,” Accius added. “Like, let’s balance it out.”