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Troy Ave 'Exploiting' Our Brother's Death, Slain Bodyguard's Family Says

By Noah Hurowitz | April 11, 2017 7:03am
 Jamie Albert, in an undated photo with her brother Ronald McPhatter, who was killed in a shooting at Irving Plaza on May 25, 2016.
Jamie Albert, in an undated photo with her brother Ronald McPhatter, who was killed in a shooting at Irving Plaza on May 25, 2016.
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Courtesy of Jamie Albert

BROOKLYN — The family of Troy Ave's slain bodyguard has yanked their dead relative's name from an honorary scholarship fund — saying they are disgusted with the rapper "exploiting" them and capitalizing on their brother's death to boost his street cred, even as he fails to live up to his basic promises to help them.

Ronald "Edgar" McPhatter's family recently asked that his name be removed from a $2,000 annual scholarship for graduating student athletes created by Troy Ave at New Utrecht High School, saying they don't want anything to do with the rapper, who launched it last year in the wake of a shooting at Irving Plaza that killed his friend and bodyguard.

“We hold him responsible for the death of our brother,” said Jamie Albert, McPhatter’s sister. “My family is not trying to stop kids from getting money, but we don’t want him to use our brother as a publicity stunt. We didn’t get a call, none of us were aware of it until we saw it in the news.

“We’ve done nothing to him, but he’s exploited our family and this tragedy in such a negative way,” she added. “He used our brother as a human bulletproof vest. Instead of apologizing, he bashes us and he disrespects and he talks down on us. We’ve been too gracious about some of the things that happened to our little brother.”

In the months since the shooting, the sisters said they watched as Troy Ave — real name Roland Collins — used the incident in songs, music videos and on social media in a way they found to be a cheap ploy to boost his street cred and even compare himself to Tupac Shakur, Albert said. 

Albert added that the family was so disgusted by Troy Ave's capitalizing on their brother's death that they took the extreme step of burying him in North Carolina in order to prevent him from using their brother’s grave site to promote himself.

“We didn't want his grave to be a spectacle,” she said. 

New Utrecht High School head football coach Alan Balkan, who last year awarded the first $2,000 to a graduating senior headed to Pace University, told DNAinfo New York he didn't know the family had not given their permission to use McPhatter's name, adding that he planned to remove it after speaking with Albert.

“I had no idea of anything, I just knew that Ronald played for me and it was tragic to lose one of my guys,” he said. “I’m gonna respect the family’s wishes.”

McPhatter, 33, was gunned down on May 25 after a chaotic brawl erupted in a VIP room of Irving Plaza at a T.I. concert, leading to the shootout. He was there at the request of Troy Ave, for whom McPhatter served as a bodyguard and all-around fixer. McPhatter did the hip-hop star's marketing and backed him up at shows as a hype man, all for just $200 every other week, according to Albert.

”Ronald Ronald McPhatter

Adding to the family’s anguish, she said her brother wasn’t even supposed to be at Irving Plaza that night. In phone calls with his siblings in the days before his death, McPhatter had said he was trying to dissociate himself from Troy Ave after the two had an argument over money. 

On the day of the show, McPhatter was avoiding his friend and employer, explained Albert, who said she spoke with him for hours on the phone that day.

“He told us he was not dealing with Troy Ave no more,” she said. “The day he died, I was on the phone with Edgar for two hours, and twice Troy Ave called and my brother sent the calls to voicemail.”

But the rapper tracked McPhatter down in East New York and implored him to accompany him to Irving Plaza, telling the bodyguard he needed him to have his back, Albert said.

McPhatter always wore black when he worked security, his sister noted, but in surveillance footage of that night, he was seen wearing all white. Albert said he had been planning on going out on a boat that day.

Troy Ave has been out on $500,000 bail since July as he awaits trial on charges of attempted murder and weapons possession. While he was prevented from performing for months, his bail restrictions were recently lifted, allowing him to tour.

A hip-hop podcaster who who goes by the name Taxstone was arrested in December for bringing the murder weapon into the club that night. He’s been charged in federal court with weapons possession, and prosecutors say they have a witness ready to testify that he fired the fatal shot, according to the Daily News.

McPhatter’s family has remained largely silent in the nearly 11 months since the shooting — declining to comment on new developments in the case against Troy Ave and Taxstone.

But that changed on Wednesday, when Troy Ave appeared on popular morning talk show "The Breakfast Club" and criticized McPhatter’s family for how they handled funeral arrangements. He also accusing his dead friend’s mother and sisters of “coming out the woodwork” for money and snubbing his attempts at holding a lavish funeral.

During the interview, Troy Ave said he had hoped to parade McPhatter through the streets of Brooklyn in a horse-drawn carriage and have him buried in East New York, near a Popeyes joint the pair had frequented. 

Warning: Graphic language

McPhatter’s brother Shanduke McPhatter, an anti-violence activist in East Flatbush, angrily tweeted at Troy Ave, challenging him and making an allusion to the bulletproof vest the rapper has taken to wearing in recent months.

Shanduke McPhatter did not respond to requests for comment, but his sister said that after hearing Troy Ave talk about her family, she decided they had been silent long enough.

In the wake of the shooting, the rapper told them to reach out to his family in order to get money to pay for expenses, she recalled. But after several phone calls, in which it seemed like Troy Ave’s family members were deliberately avoiding them, they gave up and decided they would do it without his help.

“This man never came to me, my sister, my mom or my brother to offer anything,” Albert said. “We called and called, and this went on for two days and we said, 'We’re not gonna bother them no more.’ So we never asked for no money.”

According to Albert and her sister, Shanetta McPhatter, their anger at what they see as Troy Ave’s exploitation of their brother was made worse by the fact that McPhatter was trying to distance himself from the rapper in his last days.

McPhatter had just gotten out of jail last April, where he had been held on $100,000 bail on charges related to a shooting in Flatiron in November of 2015. In that incident, he was accused of opening fire outside a hookah lounge and striking a bystander in the ankle. McPhatter had been hoping that Troy Ave would bail him out quickly, but when he didn’t, he repeatedly refused help from his sisters, saying Troy Ave had a responsibility as his employer to help out.

The rapper and his lawyer did not respond to requests for comment, but in his "Breakfast Club" interview, he blamed McPhatter for not having enough side gigs to have the cash on hand to bail himself out.

“That had nothing to do with me, nothing to do with [Troy Ave’s rap label] BSB, and I told you a hundred times always have your money, but he sat long enough,” he said.

When McPhatter did get out in April, Albert said her brother was frustrated at being in jail for so long and didn’t want to associate with Troy Ave anymore.

“He explained to Shanetta and he explained to me that he was not dealing with Troy Ave no more,” Albert said. “They was arguing about money, because for all my brother did, Troy Ave barely paid him, like $200 a week.”

Now, nearly a year since their brother’s death, the family is trying to grieve in peace, his sister said. After paying for the funeral and the cost of shipping McPhatter’s body to North Carolina, where Albert lives, they’re still trying to scrape together enough money for a headstone.

Their mother is getting ready for her first Mother’s Day without her baby boy, Albert added.

“[Troy Ave] keeps saying he wants his life back," she said, "but my brother can’t say that from 6 feet under."

An earlier version of this story stated that Troy Ave paid McPhatter $200 per week, when that was the amount the rapper paid him every other week.