CHICAGO — Mario Hess, a 30-year-old rapper gunned down in West Englewood Wednesday night, had just signed a deal with Interscope Records and received a $50,000 advance, his manager said.
Hess, who performed as Blood Money and later Big Glo, is a cousin of Chief Keef.
Just after 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, police found Hess lying in the 5600 block of South Elizabeth Street, his body riddled with bullets. He was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:29 p.m.
Police have offered few details of the shooting. No one is in custody.
"I had a feeling something like this was going to happen," said manager Renaldo Hess, 43, who is also the rapper's cousin. "That was the whole reason for us trying to get him to move" out of Englewood.
Two weeks before the fatal shooting, Mario Hess had signed a record deal with Interscope and received part of a $50,000 advance, his manager said.
The rapper quickly spent most of the cash, buying himself a Denali truck, diamond bracelet, chains and rings, according to his manager. Hess also took his five kids shopping for new clothes and paid his dad's rent.
"He was excited and just glad to tell people, 'Man, I'm signed with Interscope now. I told you I was going to do it,' and all that stuff," Renaldo Hess said.
The manager feared his cousin's success would bring unwanted attention in his native Englewood, where gangs, gun violence and feuds are perennial problems. The night Mario Hess was killed, his manager said, the rapper was supposed to be recording at the Music Garage, 345 N. Loomis St. But the session got pushed back.
Mario Hess had wanted to move — possibly even to Los Angeles, where he'd recorded songs for Interscope — Renaldo Hess said, but didn't have enough money. He wanted to move his whole family, including his children.
Renaldo Hess said his cousin started rapping years ago as Blood Money, but recently needed to change his name because the moniker was trademarked. The rapper loved to perform, but had never taken his craft seriously.
"He wanted to do it, but the streets were paying him," Renaldo Hess said. "He was in and out of jail, selling drugs, stuff like that."
Mario Hess' motivation to take his rapping seriously came during one of his most recent tenures in jail. His younger cousin Keith Cozart, who raps as Chief Keef, had gotten a record deal. Hess figured if his cousin could do it, so could he, Renaldo Hess said.
The manager said his family "isn't holding up at all" after Mario Hess' murder. Renaldo Hess smiled as he called his "little cousin" a jokester.
"A lot of people that don't know him and just listened to his music don't know what type of person he was," the manager said. "He was a very funny person. He was a very loving person."
The shooting that killed Mario Hess also injured a second man, 33. He was taken to Stroger Hospital, but police said they had no more details.