Raised on rough streets in Louisiana, the rapper named NBA YoungBoy was once dubbed a “teen prodigy” of hip-hop. He landed a lucrative record deal and boasts millions of followers on social media.
But when the 19-year-old rapper arrived in South Florida for a high-profile set at the Rolling Loud musical festival last week, he may have brought trouble with him from back home. Investigators believe feuds with rival rappers from Baton Rouge could be behind at least two shootings that left one bystander dead and six wounded in Miami-Dade.
NBA YoungBoy, whose real name is Kentrell Gaulden, escaped a Sunday afternoon shooting outside his hotel in Sunny Isles Beach unharmed. But the gun battle between the attackers and Gaulden’s entourage claimed other victims. His girlfriend was shot in the shoulder. Three innocent bystanders were grazed: a Texas man, his girlfriend and her 5-year-old son. And one stray bullet killed Mohamad Jradi, 43, a Hertz rental car employee who had just finished his shift across the street from the Trump International Beach Resort.
Miami-Dade homicide detectives are now working with counterparts in Baton Rouge to determine who might have it out for Gaulden and why. Homicide detectives have yet to speak to Gaulden, who slipped away from the crime scene to perform hours later but then vanished after the Sunday night show.
He was also present at a shooting early Friday morning, sources say, when someone on Interstate 95 opened fire at a party bus that had just left The Office strip club in Miami Gardens. Two people were hurt in that shooting.
“Everyone says they want him dead, but nobody knows why they want him dead,” one law enforcement source told the Miami Herald.
Gaulden, who is not facing any criminal charges in Miami-Dade County, could not be reached for comment. Calls and an email to his Louisiana defense lawyer were not answered.
Investigators won’t have to look far for him. Gaulden is supposed to return to court in East Baton Rouge as prosecutors in Louisiana are asking a judge to send him to prison for violating his probation for an unrelated 2016 shooting.
South Florida police detectives are also scouring social-media videos posted by his associates and rivals after the shooting for potential clues.
Dubbed a “teen prodigy” by The Fader music magazine, Gaulden was a rap success story in the digital age. The magazine reported he grew up destitute in Baton Rouge, dropping out of school in the 8th grade, buying a microphone at Walmart to connect to his phone and slowly building an online following for his music. By 2016, he signed a $2 million deal for five albums with Atlantic Records.
But his promising career was sidetracked in November 2016 when police said he was one of two gunmen in a car that opened fire on a group of people standing on a Baton Rouge street. Detectives believed the gunfire was in retaliation for the shooting death hours earlier of one of Gaulden’s crew, Keondre Ricks, a rapper known as NBA Boosie.
One of the passengers in the car was wounded in the neck in the gun battle. Gaulden, then 17, was charged as an adult with two counts of attempted murder.
He later pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a firearm and was given three years of probation. He later moved to New Orleans to continue his career, even as he faced warnings about the “dangers of staying close to Baton Rouge,” The Fader writer Ben Dandridge-Lemco wrote in his profile of the rapper.
In the video for “Untouchable,” YoungBoy’s first song after his release from custody, prominent rapper Meek Mill is seen advising the teen via Facetime: “You gotta move or you gone die.”
Baton Rouge has rough sections and many of Gaulden’s friends or associates have died in shootings over the years. His manager, Desmond Hardnett, nicknamed “Dump,” was shot to death in May 2018. That killing remains unsolved.
Another rapper known as Gee Money was shot to death in 2017. He and Gaulden had started a public feud, recording “diss tracks” — a back-and-forth drama followed eagerly by fans on social media. Another of his associates, Blvd Quick, was also shot to death in November in what The Advocate newspaper described as “an ongoing beef between two local rap groups.”
Fredo Bang, another Baton Rouge rapper, has also been feuding with Gaulden — Miami-Dade police want to talk to him because he may have been in South Florida over the weekend.
Many of those involved in the shootings grew up with Gaulden, and are spurred along by the quick fame and attention their beefs get on social media, said Baton Rouge activist Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed.
“That’s why you see them flexing with guns on Instagram. That’s why they feel they have to do that to make it to the next level in the music industry,” Reed said.
He said the Miami shooting involving Gaulden is the hot topic in Baton Rouge.
“For the younger demographic, he is a street hero,” Reed said. “To the older individuals, he is a street nuisance.”
Gaulden hasn’t stayed trouble free since he was put on probation. In February 2018, he was arrested in Tallahassee shortly before a show after authorities in Waycross, Georgia, said he choked his girlfriend in a motel. One year later, Gaulden was arrested in Atlanta, where police charged with him disorderly conduct for allegedly inciting a female friend to attack a hotel housekeeper.
Because of those two arrests, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore is asking a judge to revoke his probation. He said local detectives are monitoring the Miami case prior to a probation hearing in Baton Rouge, where Gaulden is scheduled to appear on Friday.
“If he shows up,” Moore told the Miami Herald.
The shooting in Sunny Isles unfolded Sunday afternoon outside the Trump International Beach Resort, on the 18100 block of Collins Avenue, where Gaulden and his entourage were staying before the Rolling Loud show.
Gaulden, 19, and Roderick Jean-Pierre, 21, another artist known as OG3three, were about to head to Hard Rock Stadium when someone in a black Cadillac Escalade, driving north on Collins, began shooting at the rappers.
In the chaos, tourists standing outside the hotel were grazed by bullets: Norman Rosner, 68, Jiezel Zarbyshire, 29, and her 5-year-old son.
Investigators believe several members of Gaulden’s entourage returned fire — and one of their bullets struck and killed Jradi, the Hertz rental car employee. The gunman believed to have killed Jradi used a rifle, firing wildly from the hip from the valet area.
Gaulden’s girlfriend, Kaylyn Marie Long, 19, was shot in the shoulder. Gaulden pulled her into the lobby. Gaulden’s group, driving in a black Chevrolet Suburban, doubled around and picked them up. But the SUV was immediately stopped by Sunny Isles police.
Officers initially detained Gaulden, but in the chaos of the scene, he slipped away from the crime scene on foot. Even though his girlfriend was shot, and police were looking to interview him, Gaulden still wound up performing at the Rolling Loud show later that night.
Police combed through the rapper’s corner suite with a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean, finding boxes of newly purchased Louis Vuitton and Nike shoes. Investigators also found bloody clothes, likely stained by Long’s blood.
Authorities had no choice but to let the armed members of Gaulden’s entourage go. The reason: They claimed self-defense because they were returning fire from the still unknown shooters in the black Escalade.
If detectives can identify whoever fired first, that person could be charged with felony murder because Jradi was killed as a result of the gun battle.
Anyone with information on the case can call Miami-Dade Police’s homicide bureau at 305-471-2400, or Miami-Dade CrimeStoppers at 305-471-TIPS.