It was a little over a month ago -- Nov. 20 to be exact -- when Joey Badass and his collective, Pro Era, tore-up the stage during their HOT 97 hosted Who's Next Live series at SOB's in the Lower East Side section of Manhattan. The event was celebrating the promising music careers, both individually and as a unit, of a group of students from Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood, Brooklyn. All the members of Pro Era (short for Progressive Era) were present, including Capital Steez. With a humble smile and dreadlocks bouncing up and down, Steez stood on stage behind his childhood friend, Joey, who had the spotlight that night.
Outside of the club, the November night was chilly, inside the atmosphere was electric. The crowd roared when the track "Survival Tactics" by Capital Steez and Joey Badass filled the venue. Fans and affiliates flooded the stage to a point where the two emcees began losing their balance, at times looking as if they were going to fall off completely. Once the piece came to a close, Joey Badass jumped off the stage disappearing into the crowd while the chaos gradually subsided. Still on stage, Steez let loose the opening line to his verse for a second time: "It's like six million ways to die, my ni*** choose one." In unison, the crowd recited Capital Steez's witty fan-favorite punch line: "They say hard work pays off/Well tell the Based God don't quit his day job", a mocking reference to California rapper Lil B's inability to create music that mattered. The night was something to remember.
From the crowd's perspective, Capital Steez was on top of the world. So it's hard to make sense of what happened just 34 days after that night in November at SOB's. How could a 19-year-old promising star suddenly die? The first thought, Capital Steez probably was just changing his stage name, getting ready for the next chapter in his life. Very much alive, he was looking forward to all the opportunities the New Year was sure to bring his way. Or maybe it was some awful hoax played by some music rival. But then, on Capital Steez's own personal Twitter account, his last tweet simply read "The end." As the hours passed, more online sources began to show up announcing the sudden passing of this young Brooklyn-born talent. Tweets from saddened friends and fans inundated the news feeds, and soon, Capital Steez was a trending topic on Twitter. It had become clear in cyber space: Jamal Dewar (Capital Steez's birth name) is thought to have committed suicide.
Those who were at the Who's Next Live show did not see any obvious signs of farewell. The year 2013 was to be Capital Steez's year. Behind Joey Badass, hip-hop enthusiasts expected him to become the next big success out of the Progressive Era collective. But were there hidden signs? Did he already choose one of those six million ways to die, even before he went on stage? No one knows for sure what was going on in his life. What is certain is that Capital Steez on that night of Nov. 20, 2012 put on a dynamic show. Maybe this was his way of paying homage to his life.
Follow Marcel Hidalgo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MarcelFHidalgo