Albany murder suspects rapped about the thug life

“Got these bitches sucking on me ’til their motherfucking jaws sore.”

And so goes one of the more forceful lyrics in a four-minute rap track recorded by King James Modest and Ricardo Caldwell 17 and 18 respectively and both under arrest for the murder of Richard Bailey, a 20-year-old senior at the University at Albany last October.

Aspiring rappers, Modest and Caldwell are now in the confines of the Albany County Correctional Facility. The alleged triggerman, De Von Callicutt was received at the Coxsackie state prison facility in March on an unrelated charge.

Albany is not a particularly violent city, nor does it have the reputation for crime the way that other Upstate cities such as Buffalo and Rochester have. Still, a three-week period here included several murders – all involving guns –  an accidental shooting death and a random non-lethal attack on a bicyclist during broad daylight. Most of these incidents have occurred in the rougher sections of Albany, though Bailey’s murder took place in the heart of a neighborhood inhabited by college students.

Nearly a year since the night the Long Island native was shot in the head while returning from watching Monday Night Football at a friend’s apartment, many people in the city wondered if there would be any breaks in the crime.

My inclination was that someone would get arrested for doing something stupid. Looking for a deal, he or she may offer up information about the individuals involved in Bailey’s killing. That’s normally how these things happen, I think. So far, the police aren’t saying too much about how they got the three suspects, except that before he was sent to prison Callicutt had revealed his role in the shooting, ostensibly to someone who said something to the cops.

I suppose that it’s rough to say that any one person is destined for a life of crime, but listening to the lyrics in Modest and Caldwell’s low-quality recording, “Uptowns Bubblegum”, it’s clear that these two at least emulated the gangsta culture that has landed and many young men, and perhaps themselves if they are convicted, in prison.

Certainly, they’ll have an opportunity to argue their innocence and if they choose a jury or bench trial. It’s unlikely that Uptowns Bubblegum will make it into any trial, but it seems relevant in this respect: whether they are guilty or innocent Modest and Caldwell have a pretty dim view on the world around them; one the requires the use of force and violence to achieve riches and notoriety. It’s a huge part of the hip-hop culture, packaged and sold to disaffected young men in broken down cities throughout our country.

Out in the world right now, there are probably a half-million young men who want to be rappers, who have recorded their own demos or made cheap slide show youtube videos. Many of their songs are peppered with references to shooting snitches, driving fast cars, wearing expensive threads and sexual exploits with women. The life of a thug is a thing to be admired and exalted. With it, the idea of extinguishing someone’s life over some material item or amount of cash is par for the course. Many rap song attest to this. It really is very sad.

If the Albany police got these three guys I sure as hell hope they’re the right ones. Nobody wants to think of the wrong people getting in trouble while a killer or killers go free. I guess it will be interesting to see how this whole affair plays out. If Modest, who once impressed Albany mayoral candidate Corey Ellis as a kid escaping the troubled streets of Arbor Hill, is convicted for his alleged role, it will be decades before he steps out of custody – at least 25 years. The world will have changed a lot by then. I wonder if he and Caldwell, who comes from nearby Schenectady, will ever look back on the track they recorded and see it for what reasonable folks see it for, which is poor attempt distinguish themselves the easy way.

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Street kickball

Most of the kids on my block are from working class or lower income families. Whereas where I grew up in the suburbs, most kids had summer camps or day programs their parents shelled out coin to send them to, for many families that’s not really an option. The weather in Albany – and for the Northeast in a whole – has not been very summerlike. Most days it seems are overcast and damp. Some days are chilly even.  I have to commend the kids on this street for maximizing the amount of time they spend outdoors each and every day. It’s unlikely many of them are going to an a day program let alone an Adirondack sleepover camp. Still, they seem to really enjoy being out in the street, running along the sidewalks on both sides and trekking over the red brick.

For the most part the kids are loud but pretty deferential to adults. A neighbor I know told me he’s had to jokingly threaten a few of them with his garden clippers for going through his shrubs. Still, as frustrated as he is with the damage they have done to his his backyard and the bark they have stripped on the trees he paid the city to plant, he stops to say hello to the them, smiles to them and is nice.

I find the kids to be admirable, particularly the two sisters who live next door. The police have been called over on a few occasions to break up domestic fracases between mom and dad, but the girls seem to be confident and can certainly hold their own in the rough and tumble boy dominated horseplay that goes on.

The softball diamonds are too far for the kids of the block – who range from 1 – 9 years – to walk to, so they’ve improvised their own game of straight line kickball. They use a slightly deflated soccer ball the family from Colombia has and they spread themselves narrowly across the street. The kicks are often errant and sometimes hit cars, but the ball is not heavy enough to dent or crack anything on the vehicles on the block, so it’s all good. I worry though about one of them getting clipped by a car sometimes. They’re young and not always watchful and drivers can be easily distracted.

Tonight they were at it until 8:30 p.m., six or seven of them, white, black, hispanic, playing their peculiar version of kickball. The days are shorter than they were last month and so with each day their quitting time gets earlier. Still, they keep themselves pretty busy with it and I respect that. It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a child with so few responsibilities. There are days I’d rather be playing a game; kickball, softball, street hockey or even bowling than being at work.

Yesterday I applied for a credit card through my credit union and was turned down. An old utility bill needed to be paid. It wasn’t much – $230 – but I’d let it go, pushing it to the back of my mind for over three years. I used to be in terrible debt because of my irresponsibility, but in the last two years as my income increased and became steady, I have been diligent about not letting debts go to long. Yesterday, I received a letter from a collections agency that I was advised to send on to the credit bureaus indicating I’d completed payments on an outstanding credit card – a card I first made a purcahse with in the summer of 2001 at an Gelatoria in Little Italy. After years of neglecting to reconcile the debts, I finally paid it off. I’m now proud to say I have nothing valid in collections.

The adult world can be a pain. I don’t feel like I’ve had much in the way of time off this year and my big vacation I’m planning for has become something of a stressful thing to plan for. I’m travelling for my 30th to California, spending time in San Diego, Los Angeles and then Santa Barbara before meeting up with my twin for our birthday and hiking around Big Sur. Hotels have already cost me about $700 and the car rental – for which I need a credit card  – will be close to $700 when all is said and done. It’s stressful to think of all that money or whether or not I’ll have money for my trip. When you’re an adult, it seems you have to plan your fun and pay for it. Kids on the other hand are free to entertain themselves with no money. Sometimes they just kick and old sagging rubber ball around and enjoy every moment of it. I really admire that.

“Don’t move! Get yo ass inside, right now!”

There’s a house on my block that likes to party each and every night. The weeks are when the loudest things are going on in particular. Back in May they chained their grill to a small tree and since then it’s been burgers and steaks and malt liquor at least four nights a week. Tonight they’re kicking it hard. You could be two blocks away I suppose and hear their most intimate conversations. If that’s what you want to call them, conversations. It’s really more like unnecessary shouting to no end.

I personally can tune it out because it’s two houses down, but I pity the people who are in closer proximity, like a woman who I speak to ocassionally in passing. She and her husband and their teenage son live right across the street. She’s asked them nicely to turn their beats down, but you know you can’t kill the music. To call them oblivious is an understatement. They have no fucking clue. Proof of this is what’s going on right now.

It’s nearly midnight and there’s close to ten small children playing in the street – the dark street. Every so often one of the adults shouts from the porch for them to be careful. Not so much a go to bed as a “hey, watch yo fuckin’ sister. There’s cars driving by, don’t you see?!” I’m not a parent and not sure if I’ll ever be or if I’d be a decent on for that matter. One thing I do know is that you don’t let your kids pla y in t he street unsupervised during the day, much less the nightime.

The beats are kicking right now and some poor kid has been reprimanded inside the house. Theirs lots of cursing going on and clearly some people smoking weed and drinking 40 ounce bottles of beer in front of the kids. A car came down the road and apparently one of the kids was too close to it. After it passed, one of the guys on the porch screamed, “Don’t move! Get yo ass inside, right now!” The sounds of kids can be heard through the beats and the hollering of adults.

I keep wondering how this will affect these poor kids – that’s if none of them are hurt out there playing in the dark. I don’t know what’s worse, the lack of supervision and the blantant neglect or the complete disregard for the surrounding neighbors who may not want to hear Jadakiss blasted from someone’s car at 2 a.m.