By Peter Nickeas, Jeremy Gorner and Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO — A Chicago rapper who was related to Chief Keef was gunned down near where he grew up as two gunmen fired more than two dozen shots, striking the victim as many as 10 times and wounding a relative.
Mario Hess, once known as Blood Money, had recently been paid $50,000 to sign with a major record label, according to his manager.
Chicago police were investigating if rap feuds played a role in the slaying of Hess, a second cousin to rapper Chief Keef. But no motive had been established for the Wednesday night shooting in a pocket of the crime-ridden neighborhood that hadn’t seen much violence of late.
The shooting marked the second in two weeks with a connection to Chief Keef, the 18-year-old rapper with reputed ties to Chicago street gangs. Chief Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart, was in the Northfield, Ill., residence of his manager on March 26 when a man was shot and seriously wounded.
Hess was a relatively minor but longstanding figure in the local rap scene that has seen its share of artists — including Lil Reese, Young Chop and King Louie in addition to Chief Keef — signed to record label deals in recent years.
This past year, Hess rapped in Chief Keef’s song, “F— Rehab.” He was considered the elder statesman on Keef’s local imprint, Glory Boyz Entertainment, and had released several mix tapes of hard-core street rap that won a following on the local “drill” scene. Hess’ mix tape, “Drug Wars,” for Glory Boyz, was released in 2013 before his recent signing to Interscope Records, the same label that had signed Chief Keef two years ago.
Interscope confirmed the recent signing but had no further comment.
Hess, 30, a father of five, went by the rap name of Big Glo at the time of his death but had been known as Blood Money before that.
Hess’ manager, Renaldo Reuben Hess, who identified himself as a first cousin to the rapper, said he had been trying to remove Hess from the dangers of Englewood and inner city life.
“It’s a lot of crime and violence in Chicago. These rap guys are being targeted, so you know, just trying to get him outside the neighborhood. He’s from the streets,” Hess said Thursday.
“He was basically trying to just get his rap career together because that’s a good opportunity,” he said. “They gave him some money upfront. It was a good chance for him to get himself out of the hood.”
Mario Hess was shot at about 9:45 p.m. near where he grew up. So many shell casings were scattered at the scene — more than two dozen — that police at first had to use index cards as evidence markers.
Hess was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital. The second victim, 30 and identified by Hess’ family as his cousin, was shot in the stomach and driven to Stroger by another family member, police said. He underwent surgery but was expected to survive.
Police wouldn’t say if Hess or his cousin may have been targeted by the two gunmen.
Condolences began pouring in on Twitter shortly after the shooting and into Thursday. Others tweeted their suspicions about who killed the rapper.
Early Thursday afternoon, more than a dozen friends and relatives of Hess gathered on porches, sidewalks and inside cars on the block where the shooting took place. The strong scent of marijuana wafted from one of the vehicles, while some mourners walked around with cans of beer. Others signed posters affixed to a fence at one of the single-family homes.
“I miss u dearly,” read a handwritten message on a poster.
“Half of my heart gone,” read part of another.
Relatives said Hess, who lived elsewhere on the South Side, was visiting the block to celebrate the birthdays of two of his cousins. Allena Taylor, who identified herself as one of those cousins, said people were jealous of his success as a rapper.
“Like you see stuff on Instagram and stuff, jealous of him because he made it,” an agitated Taylor explained. “He deserved that. He worked hard. Those were his rhymes out of his mouth.”
The rapper had a long arrest record that included felony convictions for narcotics and weapons offenses.
Photo: Michael Knapp viaw Flickr