On a warm Sunday in New York (May 17), rapper Chinx (real name Lionel Pickens) woke up not expecting to meet his creator that evening. The highlight of his day was actually performing in Brooklyn, making his hard-earned bands and possibly chilling at a hookah spot. Upon finding it closed, he and his friend Antar “Yemen” Alziadi bailed on the idea. What happened next would be an all too familiar street scenario that sadly played out like a coming-of-age hood movie. After releasing the commercial hit, “On Your Body,” Chinx’s underground career as a New York rapper was poised to blow until a gunman rolled up on them at a stop light and shot at their vehicle numerous times, killing him in the process. Alziadi survived.
A dark cloud loomed over hip-hop when news of Chinx’s death circulated. His close friend and Coke Boys mentor, French Montana, posted a clip of Jay Z paying his respects to the Far Rockaway, Queens native at his free Tidal concert on Instagram. “The devil comes in all shapes and sizes and he’s ruthless,” French wrote. “Life here is temporary. They will kill you for this lifestyle, if they can’t afford it jealousy is a motherf**ker. Protect yourself, protect the people you love. I’m sad to see my brother go out like this, one of the realest people I met. This sh*t’s not right. These streets don’t love us My prayers go to his kids and family. We going to finish off what we started.”
The somber funeral in Jamaica, Queens, saw a large turnout of supporters from French and the Coke Boys, Juelz Santana, Vado, Skyzoo, and a bevy of industry’s elite paying their espects to the fallen star. A mural was even made with him and the late Stack Bundles in his hometown.
Despite his passing, his loyal team refuses to let his hustle be forgotten. Chinx’s posthumous album called Welcome To JFK, not only delivers fresh cuts from Chinx but hosts records with his artist, Simms, as well as Rick Ross and the late Stack Bundles. Here, Chinx’s manager, Doug “Biggs” Ellison, Simms and his production team, Young Stokes and Blickie Blaze, sift through their memories of the late rapper, discuss the meaning of his LP title and Chinx’s sweet side.
VIBE: How have you and the family been holding up since Chinx’s passing?
Biggs: Man, it’s been quite the process and ordeal but we doing what we need to do to put on and just making sure we keep Chinx’s legacy strong and alive with this music coming out. … I’m fortunate enough to speak to his mom and his wife on almost a daily basis and that’s been therapy for me to help them in the mourning and the healing process. They give me the strength to continue to get out here and put on for him, you know? Because there was a time where I was like…It’s just so disappointing for hip-hop to hear this story too many times and to have to turn to a mother or a wife or to look at his son and his kids. It’s just certain answers you just don’t have. You don’t have all the answers. They have given me the strength to continue to put on and makes sure that his legacy is served well.
How have they been doing financially?
Biggs: Chinx wasn’t a millionaire but thank God, his business was straight. He’s in the position to make sure that they’re gonna be good for the long haul. God willing, this project comes out and does well, and we’ve got a ton of new music to service to the fans, but he didn’t leave them destitute. This isn’t something that you can plan so it’s not like he’s got a huge life insurance policy or anything like that that anybody can collect on. It’s more about just making sure that they’re good.
And that’s why we talk so much about the legacy because it’s the most important thing now. If we don’t continue to put out things that the audience wants to hear and he dies, there is a financial strain because the breadwinner is gone. So there’s an obligation that we have a home so that he continues to succeed and does well. I keep saying it all the time when I talk to people that the most important thing is that the fans know that they play a part in this. There’s bootlegging and everything else these days, everybody streams but it’s important to go back and support the artists that we really care about. It’s not a DJ that he didn’t put on for across the country. It’s not a fan that he wouldn’t stop and take a picture for, sign an autograph so we need to show up and show out when his album drops on the 14th.