ROGERS PARK — Gun-toting rapper Bang Da Hitta, who dropped his third music video on New Year's Eve, says his violent songs are just a reflection of the streets he grew up on.
"I just rap what I see," said the 22-year-old artist, born Keith Hayer, in a message sent from his "Bang Da Hitta" Facebook page. "Other than that, I wouldn't rap."
Hayer is known by police and concerned residents for his brutal lyrics about rival gang members and propensity to flaunt high-powered firearms on camera.
But he told DNAinfo Chicago that he wishes death upon no one — unless it's in self-defense.
"I'm not a killer, but don't push me," he wrote. "If n----z gangbanging, death comes with it, bang bang ... it's war on these streets, and it's going to always be that way."
Hayer is no stranger to street violence.
He said 15 of his friends have died "because of street wars."
In 2010, Hayer himself was charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm, court records show.
He acknowledged he was arrested in connection to a Howard Street shooting. His arrest report states there was one victim, Reno Foreman.
Hayer said he spent two years in jail, awaiting trial, before being found not guilty. Records show he was released from custody on Dec. 5, 2012.
The rapper said he was "framed" and "didn't shoot anybody" and blamed corrupt cops for keeping him locked up.
While in jail, Hayer said, "I was mad as hell."
Since getting out, Hayer has pursued his rap career on the Far North Side.
Police, he said, harass him constantly.
"They pull me over all the time and never caught me with nothing," he wrote. "Not a drug, not a gun, not a damn thing, but they bother me all the time for what??? ... I want to make music and do what I do. It's only a video."
Police acknowledge they've kept an eye on Hayer.
"We’re very familiar with who Keith Hayer is," said Rogers Park Police Cmdr. Thomas Waldera, who wouldn't provide any more details about Hayer or the 2010 shooting.
Waldera did ask: "If he’s already been through something like this, why would he be advocating that kind of violence?"
In Hayer's recently released third music video — titled "How We Rockin" — he flaunted what appeared to be a real handgun and again called for the death of apparent rival gang members whose turf includes Howard Street.
"These n----s know how we rockin,’ how we rockin’/These bitches know we was poppin’, we was poppin’," Hayer raps in the song's chorus. "N----s know how we roll/Big ass guns.../Ready for the war/Looking for the beef/Leave a n----s brains in the middle of the street."
When later asked via Facebook if the gun in his new video was real, Hayer replied: "Who play with fake guns???"
Hayer said his longtime Rogers Park friend Mosey Walker is featured in the song, rapping: "Now they want a peace treaty because we went crazy shootin’ shit up/Boy don’t like, better get your guns up/30 go blam/Watch a n---- fold up/Another man down/Body count goes up."
In Hayer's debut music video, more — and bigger — guns are featured, which police said led to the arrest of several men for allegedly violating parole or probation.
"We know that they're not allowed to be around weapons," Waldera said.
But in his Facebook message, Hayer said he wanted to set the record straight that some of his friends had since gotten out of lockup and in fact "did not get arrested for being in my video."
The messages in Hayer's songs are rooted in a longstanding Rogers Park conflict between a Howard Street gang known as LOCs, or Loyalty Over Cash, and Hayer's ICG, or Insane Cutthroat Gangsters. Hayer has the word "Cutthroat" tattooed on his right hand, according to a police report.
The conflict erupted after the 2008 stabbing of 16-year-old Isiah Stroud near the Jarvis "L" station and continues with tit-for-tat shootings, including this summer's slaying of 20-year-old suspected gang member Blake Lamb, who was killed in a daytime shooting in Willye B. White Park.
In his songs, Hayer rejects requests for a "peace treaty" that have come from his rivals. Asked why he's not open to a truce, Hayer replied: "No comment."
Waldera, who commanded the Area North Gang Enforcement Unit from 2005 until he was promoted to district commander at the end of April 2013, said the ubiquitous nature of social media has led to gang members using Internet videos, instead of graffiti tagging, to provoke rivals.
"These videos with the gangs taunting each other are a concern with the Police Department," Waldera said earlier this week. "They are a concern, and we do monitor them."
Contributing: Erin Meyer, Quinn Ford