By Conor Flynn
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
Jamell Maurice Demons, age 19, who’s also known as rapper “YNW Mellow” from Gifford, Florida. Is best known for his hit singles “Murder on My Mind” and “Mixed Personalities” which featured Kanye West, which focuses on the aspect of mental health in today’s society.
YNW Melly’s career began to grow at the age of 15, by posting several songs to Soundcloud, a music app that is responsible for many of today’s top rappers in the industry. His first EP, titled “Collect Call” gained attention with features from established rappers Lil B and John Wicks. Melly then gained global attention with his 2018 single “Virtual (Blue Balenciagas).”
Melly’s inspiration of music rooted from some of the most famous people ever to step foot in the music industry. His influences include the likes of Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, (who’s also known as Dwayne Michael Carter Jr) and most notably Michael Jackson. Also gained influenced from listening to fellow Platinum recording artist Drake, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and James Brown.
With music video views totaling over 26 million streams, 10 million monthly Spotify listeners, and over 200 million total streams on Spotify, its clear Melly is a well-known figure to today’s music industry. Though one thing that several rappers have in common is a tough legal history.
Melly’s notable legal battles began on June 30, 2018, when he was in Fort Myers, Florida, and was arrested for possession of marijuana, possession of weapon or ammunition, and drug paraphernalia. Recently, Melly was hit with a much bigger and serious charge. Melly and fellow rapper YNW Bortlen, also known as Cortlen Henry, were arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder. This stems from a shooting in October of 2018 that left two dead in Fort Lauderdale.
The murders of Anthony Williams and Christopher Thomas Jr. were first reported as a drive by shooting that resulted in their death. Though police claim Melly and Bortlen staged the whole thing and shot them themselves. Melly and Bortlen claim differently of course but police state they have more than enough substantial evidence to lock away Melly and co.
Typically, a double-murder like this wouldn’t gain so much attention if those charged weren’t famous, but that’s not even the case here with Melly. The two men murdered were affiliates of Melly’s group YNW, which stands for Young Ni**a World. The victims were “YNW Sakchaser” also known as Anthony Williams, and “YNW Juvy” formally known as Christopher Thomas Jr. Williams was 21 years of age and Thomas was 19 years old.
Melly’s biggest song is “Murder on My Mind”. This song could serve as enough evidence to indict him right away if it was written and released following the murders of his two artists, due to a potential admission of guilt. Though Melly has been recorded in an interview with Genius stating he wrote the mega-hit behind bars when he was 16 years old.
To gauge the public’s opinion on whether or not they think Melly committed these horrific acts, several fans of Melly shared their thoughts on the open case. Joshua Hennesy of Buffalo said, “Personally I can see this case going either way. Either they did it or they’re unintelligent for doing so with all the money they have. Or they were framed by rival gang members.”
Initially Bortlen and Demons reported to the police that Williams and Thomas were victims of a drive by shooting, though that theory didn’t add up. Both victims had bullet wounds that entered left to right from the body. The police began speculation of this claim due to the notion that if they were victims of a drive by, the trajectory of the cars movement would’ve caused them to be struck from right to left, according to a report made by TMZ.
Cell phone records may in fact be the biggest piece of evidence prosecutors have against Bortlen and Demons. Police were able to map out the location of Bortlen at the time of the shooting and it didn’t correlate with the location in which he informed police the alleged drive by took place. Records showed Demons gave false information on whereabouts of shooting. Police claim the shots were shot inside the car then the exterior shots were staged at another location, reported by NME.com.
To gauge more of the public’s interest on the ongoing case of YNW Melly and YNW Bortlen, Salvatore Cibella of Buffalo said, “It’s obviously disappointing seeing a prominent figure that people look up to be in this position. His music has touched many people’s lives and has influenced people that the street life isn’t the only way. Hopefully he’s innocent, same with Bortlen, but if that’s not the case it’s a shame people of their status still resort to such cruel acts.”
Cibella’s comments speak greatly of the influence artist have in today’s world.
Shortly after the news broke that Melly and Bortlen were suspects of a double murder, Melly took to Instagram to say, “To all my fans and supporters no I did not get locked up in Washington, but I am turning myself in today. I want you guys to know I love you and appreciate every single one of y’all, a couple months ago I lost my two brothers by violence and now the system want to find justice.”
This post sparked nationwide attention with thousands of social media posts revolving around the hashtag #FreeMelly. Troy Erk also of Buffalo noted, “Initially I thought this was all a publicity stunt. Then after a day or so I realized this was a real life situation.” Clearly many are concerned for not only the victims, but Melly and Bortlen that hopefully are innocent.
According to NME.com, Prosecutors in Florida are currently seeking the death penalty for Melly. The state believes Melly commutes these murders for financial gain, and in a premeditated murder. Melly and Bortlen have both pleaded not guilty and their lawyers Jason Roger Williams, Bradford Cohen and Nicole Burdett will fight the charges.