JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The founder of a New York-based record label told a Duval County judge on Friday that he wants to post bond for a Jacksonville rapper accused of killing two people.
Jonny Shipes, CEO of Cinematic Music Group, appeared via Zoom for a bond reduction hearing for Hakeem Robinson, 23, the rapper known as Ksoo.
Shipes is credited with discovering rappers Nipsey Hussle, Joey Bada$$, Sean Kingston, Big K.R.I.T. and Smoke DZA.
The executive told Circuit Court Judge Tatiana Salvador that he's known Robinson for about three or four years and signed him to his label two years ago for about $50,000.
"I knew him before I signed him. I've got to know him and took a liking to his work ethic," Shipes testified. He also told the judge that he believes Robinson is of "good moral character" and he doesn't believe he committed the crimes he's accused of.
Shipes said he's willing to put up $25,000 to have the rapper released. "If I could put up more money, I would," he told the judge.
Having artists in jail for various crimes isn't new to Shipes, but he said he's never testified in any of their cases like he's doing for Robinson.
"Unfortunately there are other artists that are signed to me that are ... locked up and incarcerated, but I don't go before the judge and speak on it," Shipes said. In many of those cases, Shipes said there's evidence to suggest that the artist may be guilty.
"Knowing this case and Hakeem as well as I do, I'm really passionate about this," Shipes said. "I think based on the evidence it really shows he's innocent.
"I'm trying to do anything I can to get him out to have him get back on the right path... he was becoming a music super star as all of this happened and he's lost all of his momentum. I really care for him and want to see him back on his feet," Shipes said.
Robinson's attorneys are arguing that his $4 million bond is unfair and equivalent to not having a bond at all. Robinson has been in Duval County jail since September 2020 after he was arrested and charged with the Jan. 15, 2020 shooting death of Charles McCormick, 23, an up-and-coming rapper known as Lilbuck.
While in jail on that charge, Robinson was charged with the Feb. 25, 2019 shooting death of Adrian Gainer Jr., aka Bibby, at the Hilltop Village Apartments.
Police have said both shootings were gang related.
Prosecutors have argued against reducing Robinson's bond saying his criminal history makes him a risk to the community. The state rattled off several of Robinson's prior cases dating back to when he was a juvenile. Some of the cases were when he was 12 and 13 years old.
In his music and on social media, Robinson has mocked the victims he's accused of killing and other rivals, or ops, killed in Jacksonville shootings.
During his cross examination of Shipes, State Attorney Joel Cooper asked the record label executive about the violent nature of Robinson's music.
Tara Kawass, one of Robinson's attorneys, objected to Cooper asking Shipes about the music her client makes.
"He testified that he's standing up for Mr. Robinson based on his belief that he's of good moral character," Cooper argued, " ... and that his music is something they intend to put back out there to generate funds not only for Mr. Robinson, but his company."
The judge allowed the question to stand.
"You can talk about his music, but that's entertainment," Shipes said. "Hakeem is a poet so he's painting pictures of things that he's seen in his life or in his neighborhood. That's part of the beauty of what hip hop is. It's cultural music and it definitely has a violent undertone, but it doesn't mean he's doing those things."
As part of the bond reduction hearing, Robinson testified about his current financial status stating that he doesn't have any income or money.
Judge Salvador said she will be deciding in the coming weeks if his bond will be reduced.