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Tooka: how one’s death becomes a meme that impacts rap

Chicago – the most populous city of Illinois – is well-known for many things all over the world. On the bright side, Chicago’s rap scene is home to some of the country’s most famous rappers. But on the more shady side of things, there are many crimes in Chicago, especially from its local gangs. Then, some rappers decided to bring these gang issues into their rap lyrics. One of those who were mentioned was Tooka, who then became known even outside of Chicago. But how did his story unfold, and why do other rappers keep mentioning his name? If you are curious, you can learn more about that here.

Tooka’s history: who was he?

Tooka was born and raised in Chicago. His real name is Shondale Gregory. At the time of the incident in January 2012, he was a 10th-grade student, still in high school. He was only 15 years old at the time, but was already well-known among his gang, which was the local gang named Gangster Disciples (GD). Tooka gang dates back to the late 60s by street legend Larry Hoover. The Supreme Gangsters later merged with David Barksdale’s gang, Black Disciples (BD), to form the GD gang. But over the years, the GD and BD gangs’ relationship has soured and turned hostile, making them become rivals instead.

The bloody incident that changed the rap industry later

Tooka, despite his young age, was frequently targeted by his adversary due to his predominance in the gang. On the day of the incident, he was waiting for the bus at a stop, and a half-masked man came down from a dark car towards him. After discussing a few sentences, the man then shot him several times, including the head, causing Tooka to die on the spot.

It can be said that there are more gang members than the number of police in the state. The problems associated with these gangs are becoming more and more serious. The Chicago police were unable to investigate and apprehend any suspects, since it is very difficult to find witnesses in gang conflict cases. Still, the killing of Tooka is believed to be an act of revenge for the murder of 17-year-old Eddick Walker, who was a member of another gang, which was a fragment of BD, and thought it was the work of GD.

The never-ending cycle of revenge

GD took revenge on Tooka by killing Odee Perry, a 20-year-old gang member of BD, who is believed to be Tooka’s close friend, Gakirah Barnes, one of the most famous female gangsters in the US. The police were unable to find evidence to arrest her. But she was later killed as well. It was expected in response to Odee’s death.

The rappers’ dissing; even the death cannot escape from being verbally attacked

Tooka is probably the “most despised person in rap history”, even though he himself was not a rapper. There are many famous rappers in Chicago who despise Tooka. Some of these Chicago rappers include; Keith Coyart aka Chief Keef, Dayvon Bennett aka King Von, and many others who still dissed Tooka even after he was already gone.

Chief Keef

Chief Keef (Keith Cozart) is a BD gang member, who was the enemy of Tooka’s gang. He has been using Tooka’s name vulgarly in a song he composed. Chief Keef rose to prominence in late 2012, the year Tooka was killed. It all started with threatening guns and shooting at the police, which resulted in him being detained several times. But later, he became more famous in the rap world. He made a lot of money as a rapper, but spent most of it around in lawsuits. He hated Tooka even after many years of his death. On many occasions, the turmoil from brawls through rap music has caused him to constantly get into trouble. Finally, he was shot once, but the wound was not lethal. In the end, he eventually moved to Los Angeles and said to be living happily and enjoying the peace there.

King Von

King Von is another rapper who hates Tooka and his pack. He is a relative of David Barksdale, the leader of BD. King Von is an opponent of Tooka’s gang. For unclear reasons why he hated Tooka so much, he quickly gained popularity starting in 2019. He vulgarly used the name Tooka in his song “How I Rock (Tooka Pack)”. He also used the term “Smoking on Tooka”, which Urban Dictionary defines as ‘A word used to describe potent marijuana’. Was it used to mean that Tooka was killed with a gun (Smoke) because of scolding, vulgarity, abuse, or intimidation through rap music? King Von was shot dead at the age of 26.

The degradation: from remembrance to a meme

Many online media that are popular with the new generations are spreading misinformed messages all the time these days. Whether you are a gang member or not, or that you just like gangster music, platforms of the likes of YouTube and Facebook are often used as a way of manipulating information and insulting others. In Chicago, many gang rappers use rap music through these online mediums to insult, scorn, and threaten other people’s lives. Satisfaction through non-confrontational channels like this eventually led to a real murder in public, and another vengeance follows shortly after that.

As was the case with Tooka, his name appears so often in cynical rap songs that other rappers from other states have referred to the term “Smoking on Tooka.” and used that term in their rap sometimes. Young M.A. used it in her song, “Smokin hookah like it’s Tooka” and it became a popular meme. Although she herself didn’t know nor hated Tooka. She later apologized for the matter, after learning about Tooka’s legacy.

Tooka’s mother gave an interview to the DREA O Show and pleaded with society to please stop using the “Smoking on Tooka” meme and abusing her late son. Nearly 10 years after the day of his passing, Tooka’s name appears to have received a more positive response from the rapper outside of Chicago.

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