Entertainment or evidence of a criminal enterprise? Drill rap takes center stage in the FBG Duck murder case

The quiet calm that typically hangs over the ceremonial courtroom of Chicago’s federal courthouse has been displaced in recent days by the grinding beats and hyper-violent lyrics that are signatures of the city’s drill-rap sound.

Prosecutors have played a series of videos in a bid to prove rapper FBG Duck was gunned down on the Gold Coast in August 2020 as part of a year-long gang war sparked by a series of diss tracks.

They claim that members and associates of the O Block faction of the Black Disciples targeted Duck, real name Carlton Weekly, after he released a scathing song called “Dead Bitches” which was played in public.

The track by Duck, a member of the rival Tookaville faction of the Gangster Disciples, is just one of the songs the government is seizing on to argue that O Block is a criminal enterprise.

But Marc Barnett, one of the dozen or so defense attorneys, has argued that drill-rap is “strictly for entertainment.”

On top of the case is rapper King Von, real name Dayvon Bennett, who allegedly placed a bounty on Duck’s head. He was never charged in the case and was killed in an apparently unrelated shooting in Atlanta, Ga.

Accused in the murder and extortion case are Marcus Smart, 24; Christopher Thomas, 24; Kenneth Roberson, 30; Charles Liggins, 32; Tacarlos Offerd, 32; and Ralph Turpin, 34.

Jurors on Tuesday watched King Von’s video for “Took Her To The O,” an apparent reference to the O Block, which prosecutors say also refers to the Parkway Gardens apartment complex that serves as the gang faction’s power base. The song was released just months before Duck was killed and reportedly served as a harbinger of his violent death.

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FBI agent Domonique Dixon said the song contains references to both Duck and his late brother FBG Brick, and the video shows Von fatally shooting a man who shares the same features as Duck.

A government witness who cooperated in exchange for a reduced sentence in a gun case testified Tuesday that one of the defendants, Kenneth “Kenny Mac” Roberson, told him he participated in the brazen shooting because Von had punched Duck.

But Roberson, who prosecutors say is a member of another gang faction, would not take an O Block chain in exchange for his role in the killing.

Prosecutors say Von paid $128,000 to buy diamond-encrusted O Block pendants from an Atlanta jewelry store, some of them purchased after Duck’s killing. Smart was pictured with Von at the jewelry store and alluded to the pendants as trophies on social media, according to evidence presented in the case.

Without the jury present, prosecutors sparred with defense attorneys over a video blog that appears to show Von handing out wads of cash to employees at a Parkway Gardens apartment in May 2020.

Cynthia Giacchetti, an attorney for Liggins, expressed concern that the video could lead jurors to believe that “this money is sinister” and “somehow connected to Duck’s murder.”

“It’s a thing celebrities do to get attention, to get likes, to develop their personality,” she said of handing out money.

Steve Greenberg, one of Roberson’s lawyers, tried to show music videos by Blink 182, Drake and rapper YG to demonstrate that “a musician giving out money is not unusual.”

Judge Martha Pacold allowed him to play only one of them.

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“I want to play Drake because it’s the easiest thing to listen to,” said Greenberg, the trial’s resident jokester, before later playing the song “God’s Plan.”

Jurors have also seen a video released by Offerd, also known as Losa Dosa, in which he dons an O Block pendant while rapping at Parkway Gardens.

Prosecutors also played a clip of a song that Smart, or Muwop, posted on Instagram nearly a year after Duck was killed.

The clip appears to contain a violent reference to someone from 63rd Street similar to the diss King Von made in “Took Her To The O.” Duck’s gang faction, Tookaville, is based around 63rd and St. Lawrence Ave.

“Dude from 63. couldn’t get back up. … Knows a boss applauded. Yes, we had to mask ourselves,’ raps Smart.

Meanwhile, the potential role of Von’s mentor Lil Durk remains unclear.

Towards the end of Tuesday’s proceedings, the government witness said he believed Roberson had gained “more rank” within the Black Disciples after the witness saw him hanging out with Durk’s brother D Thang, real name Dontay Banks.

Turpin, who allegedly alerted the other defendants to Duck’s location, had spoken to someone at a phone number associated with D Thang at the time of the shooting, prosecutors say.

D Thang was shot and killed outside a Harvey strip club in June 2021. His more famous brother appears to be identified as “Individual E” in court records.

Questioning Dixon about who FBI agents were targeting during the investigation, Greenberg suggested that Durk was not important.

“Did I say he wasn’t important?” Dixon shot back.

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