Whenever I hear of artists dying at a young age, I am curious. Most times I am not aware they even existed pre-demise, but once I find out, I google their music, watch perfomances on YouTube, download songs if the beats strike a musical chord in my heart; and of course read social media posts of remembrance from fans and celebrities alike.
The messages are always the same: you were too young, you were so talented, gone 2 soon, this is tew much…
Such is the same for Chynna Rogers, the 25 year old model turned rapper who died in her Philadephia home. Curious, I listened to her unique sound. Her lyrical flow was smooth and hypnotic like her eyes that seemed sorrowful, yet deep and endearing. Her voice was raspy and raw; and her rhymes were cutting and real. She was beautiful.
At 14, she entered the world of modeling and I was reminded of a young Whitney who was also beautiful. Whitney transitioned from the fashion world’s catwalk to the music industry’s runway. Her death was not surprising. The entire universe watched her life spiral out of control. Yet we rooted for Whitney’s sobriety, longed for her comeback and agreed with her infamous public service annoucement that “crack is wack.“
The lifestyle and culture of these two worlds seem too fast paced and too toxic for young souls whose identity’s have yet to bloom, whose roots are not too deeply planted, and whose soil is too barren to allow life to flourish among thorns of drugs, deceit and the underlying doubt they face as young artists. Am I pretty enough? Is my sound enough? Am I enough?
Enough is enough. I am tired of hearing about young stars, budding, rising or soaring then tragically crashing and burning. At this point it’s regular. There is no outrage or frustration. Just sadness and acceptance; and that is unacceptable.
This opioid crisis is serious and the notion that it only affects white folks in the suburbs or that the government’s rush to provide funding and resources reeks of racial disparity doesn’t matter. What matters is that young lives are being lost and a culture of addiction is being perpetuated in our society that says it is socially acceptable to be an addict.
To see the return of heroin and opioids at its peak in black communities is scary. My uncle was a heroin addict throughout my youth. Smack around the corner from my home in the Seth Low projects in Brooklyn there was a methadone clinic. As you headed to the train station or the Western Beef, it was common to see men and women on the block with that dopehead lean. Nowadays, there are telltale signs, the fiend look in the face and the staple washrag to wipe beads of sweat. If you look around certain neighborhoods it’s obvious that help is needed. Whether or not it is extended, available or received is the dilemma we’ve yet to solve.
For artists like Chynna, the signs are in their music. Their lyrics prophesy their deaths and their relationship with a substance that consumes their existence. Mood a single from Chynna’s December 2019 EP, In Case I Die First, plays like a prelude to her death, but definitely proves to be a testimony of the battle she had yet to overcome:
Walk through the port with it, might smoke a ‘Port in it
Snuck into court with it, slugs, fuck a fort
Plug on the porch bitchin’, drugs my support system
Love you, but don’t miss it, not when I snort
Call me lil’ corpse, losin’ my mind
Eight ball tucked in my Forces, the ball’s in my court (2019)
Did she enter the new year full of hope or was she at a point in her life that she hoped less?Chynna was famous, famous. But there are so many unseen youth who are grappling with similiar addictions, similar uncertainties about who they are and whether the people in their circle truly see them for who they are.
Our youth are deteriorating before our eyes, yet we do nothing or not enough…until their dead, but it’s too late.
We want to believe that Chynna is in a better place, “…I kno you are happy now” are the heartfelt words of her childhood friend Gianna Lee. My heart hurts for her and for all the real ones who really knew Chynna Rogers, who saw her beyond the headshots and vinyl.
Only, I wish that she had found her happiness on this side of heaven, among the rest of us.