Lil Snupe was a rapper’s rapper. He spit with such conviction you almost felt stupid not listening to what he said. The mark of a great MC is not how clever their punchlines are or the technicality of their rhyme patterns; it’s simply whether or not they grab you. Snupe didn’t grab you. Instead, he choked you with his rhymes until your eyes bulged and your face turned red. You had no choice but to listen closely.

It was that conviction that got the rapper, born Addarren Ross, signed to Meek Mill’s label in late 2012. During a tour stop in Grambling, La., Meek was sitting in a van ready to pull off when the scrappy young 17-year-old ran up on him, knocked on the window and handed the MMG MC his mixtape. Meek gave the tape a listen and 20 minutes later Snupe was rolling with Dreamchasers, just like that. That’s how you grab someone’s ear.

At the end of March 2013, Snupe released his R.N.I.C. mixtape, which included the wildly popular “Melo.” With a classic Philip Bailey sample to anchor it, the beat was a sure shot, but Snupe’s relentless delivery and clever quips made the song pop. Yet despite the success of the tape and his alignment with Meek Mill, Snupe couldn’t escape the street life. Tragically, he was shot and killed on June 20, 2013.

Nearly three years later, the rap game still feels like it could use a pugnacious spitter like Snupe. Too many rappers nowadays sound drugged up and out of it; Snupe always sounded alert and precise.

XXL caught up with Lil Snupe’s mother, Denesha “Mama Snupe” Chester, recently to talk about her relationship with her son, what he was like growing up, future plans for his unreleased music and much more.

XXL: The intro to R.N.I.C. 1 features home audio of Snupe spitting. How old was he on that?

Denesha: I can’t remember. He may have been 11 or 12. Snupe walked around and rapped all the time and everybody was always impressed, so every time they’d see him they’d ask him to spit something for them, so that’s what he did.

When did you know Snupe wanted to be a rapper? 

Actually he’d been talking about it since he was 4 years old. I learned that once he was successful, a neighbor came and told me Snupe came outside and was, “I’ma be a rapper.” And they laughed, and he said, “Yeah you’re laughing now, but you’re not gonna laugh when I blow up.” He was about four or five years old then.

So when he made it, [the neighbor] came and said, “I told my husband I guess we can stop laughing now because he made it.”

How old was he when he recorded his first song?

About 8 years old. We were in Dallas and there were a group of guys that were interested in him, so he started going to the studio after school. But because he started messing up in school, I wouldn’t let him go to the studio. I knew that’s what he loved to do so that was my way of disciplining him.

How was he recording at 8 years old? That’s sort of unheard of.

It was just natural for him. It was surprising to me because he would always be around rapping but I just never paid attention to how good he really was. So sometimes I would just be like, “Can you be quiet? Go write it down.” Because he’d just be freestyling all around and it would get on my nerves [laughs]. So I’m like, “Go write it down. Write it in your book. Keep up with it.”

What kind of a child was he? 

He was outdoors. His attention span was very low. You’d always have to keep him busy. I guess his mind was racing now that I just look back at it, his mind was always on something. Being an only child, being at home with me was just boring for him. So he used to run away, go to school and sometimes not even come home and stay at a friend’s house just because they had a video game. Once I got him a video game, if he did something again that’d be his punishment -- I’d take away his video game. So he would find a way to do what he wanted to do, no matter what he had to do.

He was smart. I remember reporting him because when he wouldn’t come home from school I didn’t know what to do, so I’d call the police to make a report and it became an ongoing thing. And they got to the point where they didn’t even want to deal with it, like, “Ma’am he’s not missing, he’s a runaway.” And Snupe would know to go to empty apartment buildings, knowing no one lived there so no one would answer the door because he didn’t want to come home and face punishment and be bored again. He had to be doing something.

[The police] would be so surprised how a young kid that age was so smart to manipulate them. They were frustrated with him because while his mother was worrying herself to death, he was out playing. And he just wanted to be out playing and with other kids.

Did he get in trouble with the law when he was young? 

Never too much. He never did any criminal acts, it was just being ungovernable and being disrespectful to teachers. But I learned he was the kind of kid that if you respected him, he’d respect you. And they knew how to push his buttons but he just wasn’t strong enough to not react to it, so it was always a school thing, never in the streets illegal.

When did you realize rapping was going to be a serious career path for him?

He dropped his first mixtape on Dec. 12, 2012. He had been recording and he hid that from me, but he’d come around me and rap some of his songs that were actually on the mixtape, I just didn’t know that was his stuff. So he recorded that mixtape and got it to Meek and he started talking about how they were sending him a ticket to fly to Philadelphia. So I was like, “Yeah, this is real.”

What was Snupe’s reaction to the feedback he got on his first tape?

Everybody was just saying they felt where he was coming from and could relate to what he was talking about on the mixtape. I go back and listen to what he said. Snupe said he just rapped what he feel and hoped it was spiritual healing.

How did his relationship with Meek develop? 

Well around October or November 2012, he gave Meek his mixtape at Grambling. And by about December he came and told me I didn’t have to get him anything for Christmas because Meek wanted him to come to Philadelphia. And I was telling Snupe no, you’re not going, so whatever. He came back like, “Well, they’re gonna send my ticket next week,” but I just brushed it off.

And then he came back with the ticket, and I was wondering why someone of Meek’s status would send a Greyhound ticket when he could just fly Snupe out there. And I said, “Well maybe Meek just wanted to see how bad Snupe really wanted it.” So I took him to the bus station and as a parent I just wasn’t safe, I didn’t feel good about him going at all but I was working two jobs at that time so I couldn’t just drop everything and just go on hope that you may make it or you may get a record deal or whatever.

So he got on the bus, it was 36 hours to Philly from Grambling, and he got to Meek and everything just started going from there. I think when they linked up, maybe the next day Snupe was doing a rap battle for T.I.’s album release party. So everything was so fast for him, and it just started going up for him.

I didn’t find out the truth until Snupe’s funeral. Meek came to Jonesboro and I was in the Sprinter with him telling him how I appreciated everything he’d done and how he sent for Snupe, and Meek told me he never sent for Snupe. Snupe just showed up out there, he didn’t even know Snupe was coming.

How do you feel like Snupe’s life changed after he got with Meek?

I think he felt successful. He was counted out by so many based on his childhood and the route that it looked like he was taking. He felt accomplished and he was proud. I finally saw happiness inside of him.

Had he not been happy for most of his life?

Well, we talked and he told me he struggled with his father not being around. He told me, “Mama, it’s not even you that I’m mad at, it’s my dad. But since you’re here, you’re the one I take it out on.” He started seeing other people with their dad and it can make you angry. But I just seen a different light in him [after getting with Meek], a glow.

The media ran with the conclusion that a suspect named Tony Holden had initially done the crime. Was that the guy pictured with Snupe playing video games shortly before the incident when he was killed?

Yes, that was him. Tony was the original one accused, but they didn’t find out until after the autopsy that the gun Tony turned in, its bullets weren’t the same size as the bullets that killed Snupe. He had a friend named Edrick Stewart and it was conclusive that Edrick’s bullet was actually the bullet that killed Snupe.

Snupe was robbed, the police did not determine who robbed him and they showed no interest in who robbed him. So Tony was out on bail during the time of Snupe’s murder and he turned himself in for that reason, not the fact that he was feeling bad about Snupe’s death. He got 10 years for being a convicted felon with a firearm because his bullet was not the one that killed Snupe.

Edrick received nothing. They dropped his charge and he was only being charged with I think illegal use of a weapon in a violent crime. The judge stated which bullet it was so it wasn’t a question of who killed him. It’s why is it that no one is being prosecuted for killing him.

How did you feel the police handled the case?

I think that they totally disrespected Addarren Ross. There were a lot of different things that could have been done if they had just put forth effort, we may know more than what we do know. And now, because of their failure to do their job, Edrick Stewart’s name is involved in another homicide from December 31, which means another family has had to go through what I’m going through because you guys failed to do your job.

Why do you believe they didn’t put forth the necessary effort?

I just think they’re lazy, it’s a prejudice issue. We’re a small town and it’s just another African-American dead. It was told to me that the chief of police was helping Tony [Holden] the best he could because that’s who they were making it seem like killed Snupe.

A lot of evidence was messed up. They actually robbed the apartment where Snupe was killed around 2 p.m. Snupe was pronounced dead around 4:08 a.m., so later that day they let people go in there and rob it. Nothing was ever done about that, so they could have tampered with evidence. They didn’t protect the scene and they just didn’t put forth effort to find out what happened to my son.

Were there any efforts made to follow up with the police? 

Yes, I reached out to every lawyer I could talk to. I was told two different statutory dates, one was one year and one was two years. Each lawyer said they had researched every avenue and there was nothing they could do. It was just the fact that all of them are friends with the distract attorney, everyone’s connected, so I had no help, it was just me against everybody.

I’ve done everything, I’ve stayed on them from day one, pop-up visits, whatever I had to do. It’s because of me that Snupe was even relevant in court at the time of Tony Holden’s hearing because he wasn’t being charged with Snupe’s life. It didn’t matter at that time and I made him relevant.

The incident with Snupe, that was over a bet for video game?

Yeah they were paying the 2K basketball game and they were betting $100 a game. There are so many different stories, Edrick told me three different stories so I still have yet to find out the truth. The one that I learned was like Tony and Snupe were pretty much okay and Edrick caused a scene that led to Snupe’s death. I just kinda feel like Tony had a lot more to lose than to do that, in the story I received.

What rappers have showed support for you and your family in the aftermath of this?

Trae tha Truth, [Yo] Gotti and his team are still connected and check on me. Boosie and his family and his team. Moneybag. I met with Trina, she showed her support. Keyshia Cole. I don’t want to leave anybody out but I just think and think.

The industry itself has shown so much love. Snoop Dogg, I’ve never even met him but he showed Snupe love for his birthday. The Game, Curren$y, there are just so many that continue to show love for him and there are so many I’ve never met, so I know he impacted the industry through greatness.

Were there any big collaborations Snupe had recorded that weren’t released? 

You’d have to ask his former manager about the things Snupe recorded. It took me a long time to even hear his music and there are still plenty of things I haven’t heard, and it’s by choice.

I do have some new artists I’ve been conversing with who are interested in a project with Snupe, so we were gonna make that happen too, so stuff he had recorded we could put together with some new artists.

Is there another album in the works?

We’re actually working on the third album. Nothing has been finalized and we’re still in the process because I’m working on getting my book out and getting Snupe’s documentary all out at the same time.

The documentary, it’ll be on his life and rap career?

Yes, because his life is so amazing it’s like a key to motivation for anyone. People come from dark sides of the streets and they have no hope and Snupe could have given them that hope that it doesn’t matter your background. Whatever you want to do, if you put God first you can make it.

That motivation is what the young generation needs today. A lot of children grow up in homes and run to the streets because there’s no love at home, but the streets show you love. A lot of mistakes are made and I just want to motivate someone because I’m always getting emails about how Snupe inspired people’s lives, he saved people’s lives just through his music. So to see the visual of it, I hope it can inspire someone else and many more who might not even know him.

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