ROGERS PARK — The rapper known as Bang Da Hitta, who called for the death of rival gang members in a YouTube video featuring high-powered guns, said the song was "poetry," but the video's producer distanced himself from the production.
"It’s all entertainment and hip-hop," said the rapper, who when reached by phone only confirmed his first name, Keith. "I don’t know why people are making such a big deal about it."
Police confirmed that two alleged gang members who appeared in the video had been arrested shortly after the video was posted online in early August.
Durane Oden, 21, was charged with possession of a firearm as a felon, and he had 38 grams of cocaine when a parole officer checked on him Aug. 14, according to a police arrest report and jail records.
Darviss Hurt also was arrested after appearing in the video, a source said.
The video's producer, Joe Newcomb, whose name appears prominently at the beginning of the video and in its description, said he didn't want any part of the video after the rappers pulled out guns while filming at a building near Pratt and Ashland boulevards.
"As I began shooting the second part of the video, that’s when the artist brandished what was clearly a TEC-9 [handgun] — at which point I actually became very uncomfortable," said 34-year-old Newcomb. "I’m not dumb enough to believe that these guns weren’t loaded."
Newcomb said he became so unsettled that another producer, who was assisting him, took over filming. He said he didn't want his name associated with the project.
"After this entire incident, it only makes me more strict about who I work with," Newcomb said.
The second producer, Shawn Robinson, then edited the video without Newcomb, although Newcomb's name remains on the video credits.
"Rappers like to use guns as props or whatever — sometimes real, sometimes fake," said Robinson, 32, when reached by phone Tuesday.
The producer said he had filmed similar music videos throughout the city and charges $500 to $1,200, depending on the artist.
He said the videos featuring gun-toting gangsters are a trend because “everybody want to do it, everybody want to be Chief Keef,” referring to the South Side rapper who got in trouble for shooting a gun on camera last year while on probation.
"I’m really into freedom of expression," Robinson said. "I can’t really judge a person because I’m not, like, perfect myself."
But police say the videos promote a culture of gangbanging that leads to more killings on the streets of Chicago.
"We’re trying to stop these videos because they just create more violence," Rogers Park Police District Cmdr. Thomas Waldera said Tuesday. "It’s really disheartening when you see a production company participating in that."
Last week, three men were arrested in Englewood after police allegedly caught them filming a rap video with guns. The three faces felony charges.
Newcomb said the video that features gang members repeating a chorus of "Die L'z," — referring to a rival Howard Street gang called Loyalty Over Cash — doesn't represent his other work producing music videos.
"That’s just not the type of product that I like to be associated with. It’s not part of my highlight reel," he said. "Nothing good can come from 'die' anything."
Contributing: Erin Meyer