Music is culture in New Orleans. People from around the world visit the city to recognize the work of Louis Armstrong and the origination of jazz. New Orleans, however, is also home to southern rap. Major record labels (Cash Money and No Limit) have originated out of New Orleans’ projects. These labels have provided opportunity, bringing fame and fortune to some of New Orleans most impoverished residents.
“All My Life I Hustle Just to Get that Moolah..”
I always believed in me. I never was insecure about my talents or my abilities. I always just searched for a way to get it to the masses so people could respect New Orleans, respect our culture, respect our music, respect our song.
Rapper Young Greatness (Documentary @R0oncee)
Young Greatness was on his way up – gaining endorsement from rappers such as Akon, gaining support from artists such as Juvenile, and gaining collaborative work with artists such as Migos member – Quavo. His work with Quality Control recording label gained notoriety – the single Moolah charting Billboard Hot 100 in 2016. His name as an artist grew. He could be seen performing on shows such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and giving interviews on major platforms such as The Breakfast Club.
The Greatness in Young Greatness
- His Focus
Despite his success with Moolah and Quality Control Music, Young Greatness made the decision to change labels. He left Quality Control and signed with New Orleans’ beloved Cash Money – a recording label sought after by artists from around the world. Founded by NOLA natives, Bryan Williams (aka – “Baby”/“Birdman”) and his brother Ronald “Slim” Williams, Cash Money records brought international fame and recognition to artists such as Lil Wayne, Drake, and Nicki Minaj. Cash Money Records battled its share of controversy: artists who left the label, artists who were violently killed, and public disputes revolving around payment issues. Nevertheless, Young Greatness disregarded the public image, withstood criticism and signed with Cash Money. Young Greatness spoke on his decision to ignore the critics, saying:
“That shit really don’t matter…it’s about what’s on black and white. Numbers don’t lie. Cash Money was one of the labels that set the tone for the whole rap game. You can never deny history…”
- His Persistence
Young Greatness never hesitated to express the difficulty in becoming successful as an aspiring artist from New Orleans. He says in a 2016 Breakfast Club interview:
“We don’t have no resources [in New Orleans]. We don’t have a pipeline…with no resources, how do you expect somebody to hear your music?”
As an up and coming rapper from the South, he received opportunities to talk to executives from New York, some of whom may have heard his song, Moolah, but may not have heard of him as an individual. Young Greatness wanted more than having a popular song that was climbing the charts. He was determined to be creative about finding ways to be remembered as an artist. He says in the Breakfast Club interview: “that’s what makes me Young Greatness, cause I’m like a chameleon. I can adapt to anything.”
Singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and mogul Akon, endorsed Young Greatness. Akon said, “I just believe that he is going to be the future.”
- His Vision
Young Greatness began to take music more seriously after Hurricane Katrina required him to move to Houston. He crossed paths and interacted with artists popular at the time: Paul Wall, Mike Jones, and Chameleon. From 2007 until 2010, Young Greatness spent time in prison (drug charges). Soon after his release, he committed himself to a plan of living in New Orleans for seven days and Atlanta for seven days until he attained the success that he was looking for. Atlanta had more resources than New Orleans. He said, “I was one of the people who understood the business and understood what I had to do to get to the next level. So I did that [living in Atlanta and New Orleans] for three years and then it [career] just popped.” While in Atlanta, he was intentional about working in different studios, networking with people, and making his brand as an artist stronger than ever.
The Adversity and Tragedy of Young Greatness
Born Theodore “Teddy” Joseph Jones III, he had the focus, the tenacity, and the vision to invent who he wanted to be for the world: “Young Greatness.” He was amazed that he could travel to different cities and be recognized as an artist. He was asked for autographs and pictures. He expressed:
“Coming from New Orleans – it’s so hard man. It’s hard bruh, I aint lyin…I made it and it gives other artists from the City hope…cause it’s only two things in New Orleans. Either you die or you go to jail. [This happens to ] all the great rappers from New Orleans…you have to have a street life to support your music. There is no body that is going to meet you and say, ‘ok, I am going to invest in you and take you to the next level and take you off the street.’”
Early morning, on Oct 29, 2018, Young Greatness was on Facetime with his manager at a Waffle House located in New Orleans. Shots rang out. Waffle house guests reportedly saw the artist running away. Within a short time, Young Greatness was found face down with a single gunshot wound to his back. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His car was also stolen in the sequence of events.
Although the photo of the person of interest was released, Young Greatness’ killer remains unidentified. The motive is unknown. However, senseless fatalities are all too familiar in New Orleans and in the rap community. Rapper Boosie, from Baton Rouge, explains in a 2016 interview:
“Most rappers die in their own city…[there are] guys that would want to hurt you. Those guys who been looking at you your whole life and building up envy…evil get in them so much where they say ‘I just want to see them dead.’”
Overcoming the adversity and tendencies of the streets can be impossible for successful artists. In fact, successful rappers, such as Boosie, believe artists should leave a city like New Orleans once they start making significant money. The haters, or jealous people, are many times previous friends. Artists like Young Greatness become a target in their own community – regardless of what they are trying to do for it. Boosie says of people who kill out of jealousy, “[they] are so hypnotized with hatred that they cannot see the love.”
Nicole Nixon is a dedicated wife and mother who values leadership and business. Motivated by her husband and her son, she is vested in the empowerment and positive commercialization of black men in America. If you enjoyed this piece, you might want to check out her piece “A Mother’s Cry,” or her other articles here.