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Philadelphia is still clawing through the rubble after a wave of violence over the Fourth of July weekend saw more than 30 people shot and at least nine killed, including a 6-year-old.
Aamir Johnson Daye was another one of the young victims. An up-and-coming rapper from West Philly, the 18-year-old was shot in the leg, wrist and lower back late Sunday night. He succumbed to injuries early Monday morning while being treated at Penn Presbyterian.
Along with some songs in radio rotation, Sloan and Skiano’s least popular YouTube video clocks in at more than 800k views. Popular track “Wolf N Demon,” featuring Philly rapper Kur, has been viewed more than 2 million times.
Johnson Daye’s enthusiasm wasn’t just reserved for performance. Former teachers remember him as someone whose creativity couldn’t be confined inside traditional classroom walls.
“He was full of life,” Chris McFadden, who was dean of students at Mastery Shoemaker high school when Aamir was a junior there, told Billy Penn. “He was out of class, and just giving you smiles and hugs and jumping outside of your office smiling, making sure you had a good day.”
McFadden recalled the teen shining during a school dance competition, commanding the stage. “You’d have thought there was a concert with just Aamir,” he said.
It wasn’t until after Johnson Daye was killed and students flooded their social media timelines with tributes to him, that McFadden recognized how far his former student’s reach really extended. “I’m like wow, this is amazing,” McFadden said.
Another dean, Raheem Berry, said he got to know Johnson Daye’s music through his son, whose football teammates were fans.
“I said, ‘Yo, y’all really got the city buzzing a little bit,'” Berry recalled saying about Sloan and Skiano. “That’s the hard work they put in. they chose to take a path and they believed in themselves.”
A 2019 post on the rap music blog Elevator highlights Johnson Daye’s gravely flow, and says said the duo went record label shopping after their “Wolf N Demon” drop. Their newest viral bop put a Philly club music spin on the ubiquitous kid song “Baby Shark.”
News of Johnson Daye’s death spread quickly on social media, where friends and fans mourned the fallen musician.
“My heart is shattered,” wrote SimxSantana, a Columbia Records-signed artist who also worked with DM4 Ent. “[S]hit don’t even seem right puttin rip next to ya name.”
Another local rapper, Runup Rico, mourned Johnson Daye’s death, saying, “Bro was a legend in Philly.”
Berry, Johnson Daye’s former dean, remembered him as respectful and intelligent.
Gun violence over Fourth of July weekend was spread across the city, from the Northeast to Germantown to Point Breeze.
Councilman Kenyatta Johnson of the 2nd District on Tuesday night hosted a march and rally against gun violence in Point Breeze attended by about 150 people. He said he knew the families of two young men killed recently in the neighborhood.
Across town, anti-violence activists and groups including the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network will hold a “Peace Motorcade” through North Philly on Thursday.
Community of Compassion CDC operates in the West Philly neighborhood where Johnson Daye was killed. Executive Director A. Brahin Ahmaddiya. who received anti-violence grants from the city, has been operating workshops that attracted about 80 teens and young adults each week until COVID-19 hit, he said.
“A lot of times when folks are around violence it becomes a norm,” said Ahmaddiya. “[T]hat’s their go-to response when it comes to anger, when it comes to depression, when it comes to economic disenfranchisement. All of those things are triggers.”
In a city where more than 900 people have been shot and 214 killed already this year, it feels impossible to name them all, but community organizations like this and others are trying. They stress the importance of honoring the deceased as more than a list of incident reports, as real people who leave more behind than a disheveled emergency room and shell casings encircled with chalk.
Johnson Daye was clearly more than just a name to his family, friends and thousands of fans.
“Aamir was changing [the world] with his music,” said Berry, the dean. “His full ride was coming through the airwaves.”
Loved ones attended a vigil for the 18-year-old on Wednesday evening.