Rapper Lil Jojo was at war. For months in 2012, the Chicago teen had been engaging in a social media beef with rival rappers Lil Reese, Lil Durk and Chief Keef, as well as with the Black Disciple street gang.
As with most battles, Lil Jojo turned up the heat and dropped the gun-toting video "3hunna K" as a diss to Chief Keef and his associates. He also claimed that he and his crew were BDK, Black Disciple Killers.
Two days later disturbing footage emerged. It was a shaky video of Lil Jojo and his crew rolling up on Lil Reese, standing outside.
On the video you can hear Lil Jojo's crew calling Lil Reese a b—-h. Lil Reese begins moving toward a car. A voice can be heard yelling, "I'm going to kill you."
At 3:13 p.m. that same day, Lil Jojo took to Twitter to let his followers know that he was on enemy turf.
"Im on #069 Im Out Here" he tweeted, indicating that he was on 69th Street in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.
At 7:30 p.m. Lil Jojo was shot and killed. His body was found near 69th Street.
Hours after the murder, on Chief Keef's Twitter account a message was posted: "Its Sad Cuz Dat N—— Jojo Wanted To Be Jus Like Us #LMAO."
He would later claim his account had been hacked.
Lil Jojo's aunt, Sonia Mares-DuBose, said that his family was aware of Chief Keef's Twitter message, and her question when talking to the Chicago Sun-Times was, "How do you go on Twitter and brag about it?"
The war of words in 140 characters is a war that amounts to little in the way of viable gains, as there is no oil in "Chiraq" (as the gangs call Chicago). The value being fought over will never have tangible currency beyond Twitter followers, @'s or re-tweets.
For these young people, the price of Internet fame is infamy and, in some cases, death. Their beefs no longer happen in silence, and neither do fights. They are taped and shared and tweeted about.
A month ago two young women got into an argument over a boy. It ended when 16-year-old Sharkeisha Thompson reached back wide and laid 17-year-old ShaMichael Manuel out. It was brutal, and it was taped and bragged about online.
Sharkeisha took to Twitter to say she had knocked the girl out. Within minutes she had another 30,000 followers.
Sharkeisha's punch wasn’t just a neighborhood squabble between two young ladies. It is the outstretched arm rearing back to wallop her victim played on repeat. It is a meme, a trending topic, and it may be the most devastating moment of both of the young women's lives.
The footage will live longer than the memory, Sharkeisha's antics analyzed to a level, which is uncomfortable, and her unique name now a verb.
ShaMichael would tell the New York Daily News that she was humiliated and wished the video would disappear. "I'm going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life," she said.
This is what social media now does. It archives the awkwardness and even the violence of youth, broadcasting these formidable years of adolescent idiocy. In the social media cafeteria of who gets to sit at the cool table, "followers" and "likes" have raised the stakes for those who are desperate to be relevant.
But Qawmane Wilson, aka Young QC, sits alone at the far end of this spectrum.
Prosecutors allege that the 24-year-old masterminded a plot to have his mother killed so that he could empty out her bank accounts and cash in her life insurance polices to stunt on social media. Yolanda Holmes, Wilson's mother and the owner of the popular Nappy Headzsalon, was found dead in her home on Sept. 2, 2013, around 4:15 a.m. An autopsy showed that she died of several stab wounds and a gunshot to the head.
Wilson was arrested and charged with murder on Dec. 22, the Chicago Tribune reports.
According to DNAinfo Chicago, one week after his mother's death Wilson liquidated her bank accounts, collecting more than $90,000. He then posted numerous pictures and videos of himself across Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. There is a photo of him getting a pedicure with rows of bills laid in his lap. There's a photo of him frozen in stride in front of his Mustang (with Lamborghini doors), both arms full of shopping bags. Photos that show fresh Jordan sneakers, wads of cash and guns.
But the sickest part of his social media mania is on Wilson's YouTube page, which shows him going into a bank to withdraw a large amount of cash, only to throw it in the air for his "fans."
Fans. That's what he believed he had. Fans.
This is the hollow sadness of social media. That the followers and Facebook friends or "likes" or "mentions" don't add up to much in a real-world setting. It is the ever-elusive quest for coolness that permeates decisions. Couple that with trumped-up masculinity, a faux national audience and a supersized sense of self, and what's left is a philosophy among those who believe in the power of a mention:
"I tweet, therefore I am."
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.