Four months after allegedly committing his second murder, a young Surrey man posted a rap tribute to slain Brothers Keepers founder Gavinder Grewal online.
Under his rapper name T-Sav, Tyrel Nguyen Quesnelle boasted that he would both die and kill for the late gang leader.
“They took GG from us, realest trapper ever living. I swear we riding out for you till they all ain’t living,” his song, titled My Life, goes. “I caught my first body when you was in school … Brothers Keepers, that’s a life contract, little nigga.”
Nguyen, 21, was arrested in Edmonton on Dec. 20 and charged with the October 2017 murder of Randy Kang, a former associate-turned-rival of the Brothers Keepers gang, and the November 2018 slaying of Jagvir Malhi.
Both men were shot to death — Kang, 27, in Surrey and Malhi, 19, in Abbotsford. Police said Malhi was a university student and accidental victim of a hit that targeted someone else.
Nguyen’s rap about his tough upbringing and life in the drug trade features several photos of Grewal, who was shot to death on Dec. 22, 2017, in the North Vancouver luxury condo he rented.
A Vancouver Sun investigation has uncovered a disturbing new trend in B.C. where some of those involved in the bloody Lower Mainland gang war are calling each other out through rap tracks posted to social media that are garnering tens of thousands of views.
Police say the songs advocating violence and revenge and boasting about murder and drug trafficking are ramping up tensions in an already volatile gang landscape.
Just before Christmas, a young Toronto rapper who had ties to the Brothers Keepers gang was shot to death inside a South Surrey home. Earlier this month, another Toronto rapper was arrested in Surrey after police found a loaded .40-calibre pistol in his vehicle during a traffic stop in Guildford.
And the Brothers Keepers aren’t the only ones calling out their enemies musically.
After his release from a B.C. jail last fall, a rapper calling himself Lolo Lanski posted his song Dedman to SoundCloud and YouTube. It had over 80,000 downloads as of this week.
The anti-Brothers Keepers song describes Grewal being shot inside his penthouse home — noting that the killer “sent lead to his head” and that the violence was part of “trying to put a BK on TV.”
Bizarrely, the song includes an audio excerpt of the recorded 911 call made by Grewal’s brother Manbir inside the suite after the BK boss was killed.
The operator asks: “OK, so what is happening?”
The brother replies: “I came to check up on my brother and found out he’s been shot.”
He says there is neither a gun nor anybody else in the suite.
“Is he cold?” the operator asks.
“Yes, he’s cold,” the brother answers.
“What’s you brother’s name?”
Then the song has the sound of a gunshot echoing.
Police investigating use of 911 recording
The Sun has confirmed that the 911 call is authentic. How the rapper, whose real name is Ekene Anigbo, obtained a copy of the recorded call is under investigation, Vancouver police Insp. Lisa Byrne confirmed.
On Lanski/Anigbo’s Instagram page, he has posted a photo of Grewal rival Gary Kang taken inside the North Fraser pretrial jail, though there is an emoji blocking part of Kang’s face. “Free my broski out of there,” Lanski wrote.
A source told the Sun that a recording of the 911 call was part of a disclosure package that was sent to the pretrial jail for an accused in another gang case. Court records confirm that Anigbo was in custody on charges of uttering threats, possession of a firearm without a licence and carrying a prohibited device.
He pleaded guilty in September and was sentenced to a day in jail plus probation. Then in November, he was charged with breaching his probation conditions. He is due back in provincial court in Vancouver on Jan. 30.
Quesnelle, who is charged with killing Gary Kang’s brother and wounding Kang, will make his next court appearance the following day in Surrey. Last August, the Sun observed the young rapper and accused hitman at the funeral of slain Hells Angel Suminder “Allie” Grewal with several Brothers Keepers alongside him.
Local rappers mimicking Chicago gang drill music
Experts say the trend of gangsters using rap lyrics to condemn and threaten rivals started with Chicago drill music more than a decade ago and has spread around the globe to places like New York, Paris, Brixton, England, Ireland and even Toronto.
The phenomenon is new to B.C., says Keiron McConnell, a Vancouver police officer who did his PhD on gangs and now also teaches at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Simon Fraser University.
McConnell said he has met with other academics and law enforcement officers who have seen this problem boil up in their jurisdictions. “In London, they follow all the social media because that’s how the violence occurs, which we haven’t seen here in B.C. until now.”
Forrest Stuart, a Stanford University associate professor, spent two years embedded with youth in a Chicago gang.
His book based on that research, Ballad Of The Bullet: Gangs, Drill Music, And The Power Of Online Infamy, will be published in May.
“The demographics change, but so many of these online dynamics seem to be — to a T — the same.”
Even the original Chicago drill music terms — opps for opposition, pole or pipe for gun — are being adopted in rap lyrics by gangs around the world, including here in B.C.
“I find it really interesting that in London, these kids are integrating pipes and poles into their lyrics even though they don’t have guns. They are involved in stabbings,” he said.
Do online rap taunts and advocating violence lead to the real thing on the streets?
Stuart said it really depends on the history of the gangs involved.
In some cases, feuds go back years and a violent encounter isn’t going to be sparked by taunts in a rap song.
All the youth he spent time with in Chicago “were scarred by the loss of someone by the age of 13 or 14.
“It doesn’t take a drill music video to make one of these kids want to kill somebody on the other side,” he said. “These rap beefs are just the newest vehicle for the same kind of taunting and jockeying that would have gone on at the beginning of social media.”
But he said there are “some other gangs where the violence might not have existed had it not been for this constant jockeying for attention that much of this drill rap stuff is really about.”
A byproduct of gangs posting incessantly on social media is that they often reveal photos and details of their lives and locations, which rivals can use to gather intelligence, or even to target those posting, Stuart said.
However, he doesn’t believe it’s common for violence to stem directly from a rap song designed to insult or taunt a rival.
“I don’t really buy the narrative that we often have that it’s like someone posts on YouTube a drill video and three hours later somebody’s shot. That is the rarest connection I would say between drill music and violence.”
“It seems to be that is becoming more and more the way that gang members and street gangs create a presence and an identity, whether it is London, England, or Chicago or, now, Vancouver,” Densley said.
The purpose of taunting gang rap songs or videos is primarily “to antagonize rivals and to insult them online.”
In some cases, the humiliation that comes from the rap dis can make a target “feel like they have to respond violently on the streets,” he said.
While law enforcement agencies are using the rap wars to add material to gang databases, that might not always be fair, Densley said.
“Social media creates guilt by association. Just because you are in a rap video doesn’t necessarily mean you are a gang member because, at the end of the day, making a music video, uploading and sharing it online is an everyday pursuit by young people.”
He said one of the big challenges is “disentangling the facts from the fiction.”
“Law enforcement is faced with that challenge because they are trying to figure out, ‘Well, is this a legitimate threat or is this just somebody posturing or posing on the internet?’ The gangs themselves are trying to figure that out as well. They are looking at this and thinking, ‘Well, is this a credible threat?’”
Myth-making a central feature of gang culture
“Gangs are notorious for cultivating myths about their brand — artistic licence, if you will, to talk about their criminal exploits,” Densley said. “So the question is whether or not these videos are a visual record of actual wrongdoing or an incitement to wrongdoing or are they just part of the mythology of the group where they exaggerate their size, their strength, their reach, in an attempt to intimidate others?”
Both Densley and Stuart agree that in some cases, gangs describing their conflict in rap could even de-escalate potential violence by giving them another outlet.
“You can let out those tensions on the internet without having them spill out onto the street. It might actually be a good thing for violence reduction,” Densley said. “On the other side of it, it might be that if people start to take these online provocations seriously, they are going to respond in reality.”
‘Pouring gas on the fire’
Sgt. Brenda Winpenny, of the anti-gang Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, said the agency is aware of some of the recent rap taunts calling out rivals in the Lower Mainland gang war.
While rap is a new development in the current conflict between the Brothers Keepers and rivals in both the Kang group and the United Nations gang, police in B.C. have seen the overlap between rap and gang culture before.
“Gangs and organized crime groups using music and individuals involved in the music industry to promote their gangs and to call out other rival gangs — obviously it isn’t new. We have seen it over the past years,” Winpenny said.
She said Toronto police have more experience grappling with rap and gang violence. That agency declined to comment for this story.
“They are much further ahead than we are. In our conversations that we have had with them over the years, they’ve seen a very distinct connection between gangs and gang violence and an increase in gang violence and its connection with the rap or hip hop industry,” Winpenny said.
What is now happening in Metro Vancouver is mirroring the Toronto experience. Some Ontario rappers have aligned themselves with warring sides here in B.C., travelling back and forth frequently.
“Obviously to us, it raises a flag and our officers are aware of it. Our officers clearly don’t want to see an increase in violence due to gangs using the music industry to incite violence,” Winpenny said.
She said the Lolo Lanski song containing the 911 call is “a very, very clear message of one gang calling out another and inciting violence.”
“It would be hard to believe that this person doesn’t know what he is saying, what he is talking about. It would be our position that this musician is more than just a proxy for this message. They are pouring gas on the fire.”
It was 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 23, 2019, when Surrey RCMP officers were called to a rundown house at 2260 152 St. Inside they found up-and-coming Toronto rapper Why-S, real name Keeshawn Brown, just 18 and dead from gunshot wounds.
Sgt. Frank Jang, of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said this week that police “haven’t found anything so far to directly link him to the Lower Mainland conflict.”
But the Sun has uncovered a connection between Why-S and the Brothers Keepers’ gang.
Mohammed, 21, is closely associated to the Brothers Keepers. In 2018, he was on a Vancouver harbour cruise with gang members, captured in photos of the event obtained by the Sun. He has no criminal record in B.C. Mohammed travelled to Russia last year with Toronto rapper Pressa and was featured in a video of the trip posted to YouTube.
Like many of the drill tracks, the Why-G/Wlatt song boasts about “trapping” in the drug trade on the West Coast, beefing with “opps” and having “my shooters … in position.”
In the middle of the song one of the rappers says: “I am my brothers’ keeper.”
Winpenny warned that some of the rappers posting tracks online advocating violence could end up under investigation.
“What also concerns us is that if this is left unchecked and these groups continue down this path, it could potentially escalate the gang violence and it could potentially spill over into other jurisdictions,” she said.
“If violent acts occur, I would venture to say that these artists that are found to be inciting or soliciting violence could find themselves a part of an investigation.”