JACKSONVILLE, Fla — WARNING: The following article contains videos and links that contain music and subject matter that may be offensive to some.
There's something really sick happening in Jacksonville and it's hard to unsee. It's often a difficult, nearly impossible, task to put context or assign motives to stories about murder, but a disturbing trend in Jacksonville is making that easy.
There's a deadly feud happening here, which is nothing new, but now it's taking place on social media for all to see. While social media, particularly YouTube and Instagram, are the vessels carrying these disturbing images and messages, it's the music that's propelling this dark side of Jacksonville across the globe.
ATK vs. KTA
If you're not a fan of hip hop music, you're probably unaware of the level of talented musicians coming out of Jacksonville right now. The origins of rap music is rooted in battles - two guys and two mics going at it - sparring with one another using lyrics and rhymes to outdo their rival.
These rivalries have sparked beefs that turned deadly, most notable, in the 1990's - East Coast vs. West Coast - which resulted in the murders of arguably the two best in the industry, Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.
Right now in Jacksonville, the rival factions are ATK vs. KTA. There are hundreds of videos on YouTube describing what both acronyms mean with some slight variations. The one thing constant in both is the "K" stands for "kill."
The star of ATK is rapper Yungeen Ace. The star of KTA is rapper Julio Foolio. Dozens of YouTube channels are chronicling the origins of this beef, most notably are QuietRoom, hosted by Queenzflip who documents and facilitates rap battles, TrapLife Documentaries, which documents criminal activities in the rap scene, and Insider Hotspot, which covers "lifestyles, struggles and secrets" of rappers, according to its YouTube channel.
These vloggers, and social media posts from Yungeen Ace and Julio Foolio, concede that this beef went from bad to deadly with the May 2017 killing of 19-year-old Zion Brown on Jacksonville's Westside after a man stormed a home there and shot him to death.
Brown, was Julio Foolio's cousin. Arrested in that shooting was 19-year-old Deontrae Thomas. Yungeen Ace, whose real name is Kenyata Bullard, pleaded no contest in an Orange Park robbery that occurred seven months before Brown's murder. Thomas and Bullard were both implicated in that robbery where the two conspired to rob someone who was reportedly selling marijuana, according to a June 2018 article in The Florida Times-Union. Shots were fired into that home nearly missing a couple and a 1-year-old child.
Yungeen Ace was the target in a retaliatory shooting for Brown's death in June 2018 when he and three other teens went to a Town Center restaurant to celebrate the rapper's brother's birthday. Ace survived after being shot eight times. The three others, including his brother, Tre'von Bullard , 18, died. The two other men were Royale D'Von Smith Jr., 18, and Jercoby Da'Shad Groover, 19.
Following the mass shooting, Julio Foolio made several posts on social media glorifying the killings. He even created a T-shirt airbrushed with a photo of Royale D'Von Smith Jr., aka 23, that said "Rest in piss 23." He posted a photo of the T-shirt on his Instagram page saying, "I'm getting a new T-shirt made for my show."
The bloodshed continued in January 2019 with another mass shooting. This time outside of Paradise Gentlemen's Club on Baymeadows Road. Willie Addison, a rapper known as Boss Goon, was killed. He had just performed at the club. He was in the car with family members who were also injured.
Family members of ATK rapper Ksoo, whose name really is Hakeem Robinson, were injured in the shooting, including his father, Adbul Robinson, who was shot in the back.
More retaliatory bloodshed followed in January 2019 with the shooting death of Charles Quentin McCormick Jr., a KTA rapper who went by the name of Lilbuck. That was followed by another hit on KTA a month later in February 2019 with the death of Julio Foolio's little brother, 16-year-old Adrian Dennard Gainer Jr., aka Bibby, at a Moncrief area apartment complex.
Julio Foolio and his girlfriend were both injured in separate shootings in clear attempts on their lives.
Hakeem Robinson, aka Ksoo, celebrated these latest killings by putting the fallen KTA victims on the cover of his album entitled "Bibby Out" named for Julio Foolio's little brother.
Yungeen Ace escaped death again in March 2019 after another attempt on his life in Waycross, Ga. A 30-year-old man was killed in that shooting and three men were arrested.
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office arrested Ksoo in March charging him with killing Bibby and Lilbuck. This arrest came after several months of Ksoo posting several videos of himself bragging about the killings of KTA members and taunting Julio Foolio about "smoking Bibby."
Julio Foolio returned the favor posting several videos of himself taunting ATK and Yungeen Ace talking about "who I'm smoking" -- which included Ace's brother and rapper 23.
Who's smoking whom and why?
Tupac Shakur proclaimed that he wanted his "homies" to smoke his cremated ashes after he died. "You'll get hella high," he said. What many thought was a joke turned out to be serious. In a twisted show of love, respect and honor, several people who were close to the rapper reportedly smoked some of his cremated remains.
What we're seeing in Jacksonville with this disturbing ATK, KTA beef is the flipping of Tupac's twisted narrative of literally smoking your homies. It's being used as a joke here where the rivals are saying who they're "smoking" to denote whose been killed.
Rappers Spinabenz, Whoppa Wit Da Choppa, Yungeen Ace and FastMoney Goon released a video three weeks ago of a track called "Who I Smoke." It has taken off like a rocket with 14 million views in that timespan.
"Who I Smoke" is a disturbing twist on Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles.” The main hook of the song is Ace singing the catchy phrase "who I smoke" followed by the name of an KTA rival.
Not to be outdone by ATK, Julio Foolio released a diss track of his own Friday called "When I See You," a remix of recording artist Fantasia's hit single "When I See U." It was nearing 1 million views in 12 hours.
While Fantasia's "When I See U" is her singing about her nervous feelings when she sees the guy she's swooning over, Julio Foolio's "When I See You" is him rapping about someone he hates, Yungeen Ace, and what he'd like to do to him when he sees him. More disturbing than that is the banner Julio Foolio totes around in the video of the three teens who were killed while riding with Yungeen Ace near Town Center.
In one part of the video, he's laying on the banner in a graveyard rapping while making references to 23, or Royale D'Von Smith Jr. who's pictured on the banner a long with Yungeen Ace's brother Tre'von Bullard and Jercoby Da'Shad Groover. The three were killed after leaving a Town Center restaurant where they were celebrating Bullard's birthday.
A portion of the lyrics state:
"Went out to eat on his birthday - four shot, three dead in the worse way - he kept dissin' on me - no he's smokin' 23 ..."
While this deadly beef apparently started a few years ago, Yungeen Ace's and Julio Foolio's new viral music videos may suggest it's just getting started.
Social media is the "gang graffiti of the 1980's." - Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams
While many of these shootings were playing out on social media and in the streets, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Gang Task Force used rap videos to make arrests. In January 2019, JSO arrested several men, solely for what they were doing on social media.
"Social media has impacted our society in many ways. Most of those impacts are positive," Williams said during a news conference Jan. 30, 2019 where he, the mayor and State's Attorney announced the arrests of six convicted felons who were seen with firearms in rap videos.
"Unfortunately these advances in technology also provide the criminal element with a new platform to promote their trade in the street culture market," Williams said.
The sheriff said the videos are used to glorify guns, drugs and intimidate rival groups or gangs "that can lead to acts of retaliation and drive-by shootings."