I was supposed to talk with Chicago-born rapper Dayvon Bennett, aka King Von, but never got the chance before he was gunned down on Nov. 6 outside an Atlanta nightclub.
It's not every day that a reporter with a background in both crime and pop culture gets a chance to interview someone seen as both a fast-rising hometown rap star and a coldblooded killer. His music had hit the Billboard Hot 200 before his death, but several of his singles, including "Take Her to the O," hit the Hot 100 posthumously.
I wanted to hear from Bennett's own lips whether he felt he could escape his hard upbringing and forge a new life. Did he have any regrets? What advice did he have for talented young boys growing up in his old neighborhoods?
Bennett was the boogeyman of Chicago's drill rap scene who had taken this adapting music world by storm. His real-life activities held the attention of millions of young fans, as well as local and federal law enforcement.
Barely 26 years old, the South Side native and father of two had long been a reputed Black Disciples gang member rumored to have been a young triggerman against rival Gangster Disciple factions, according to police sources.
It was a reputation Bennett himself cultivated in numerous raps and cryptic social media messages that many fans, and some people who work in law enforcement, believe was rooted in truth.
At 23, he was acquitted of murder and attempted murder after an Englewood house party shooting left a man dead. Since then, Bennett was linked to crimes in other cities, including a shooting last year where a 23-year-old man was shot and his possessions taken.
Following his release from jail, Bennett was signed to the Only The Family music label by mentor and fellow Chicago rapper Lil Durk.
In a world of music studio tough guys, Bennett was a cut above. Though he had no prior rap experience, he had a unique and captivating storytelling style — along with his popular first-person translations so that old squares like me can follow along — that could be both plainly stated and witty. His rhymes allowed listeners to understand his head-on-a-swivel mentality. Headlines in the Chicago Tribune often confirm his take: In Bennett's world a routine trip in the neighborhood could turn into a deadly ambush.
In a new musical landscape where music streams have replaced album sales as metrics for success, Bennett's biggest hits — "Crazy Story" and "Take Her to the O," a raw moment-by-moment telling of a sexual pursuit-turned-shootout — each racked up millions of views before his death.