TORONTO — Friends and family of two men gunned down in Toronto’s Entertainment District over the weekend said the two emerging artists in the city’s rap scene will be remembered for their hard work and ambition.
Jahvante Smart, 21, known as Smoke Dawg and Ernest (Kosi) Modekwe, 28, known as Koba Prime, were fatally shot Saturday evening. Police said a woman was also shot, but she is expected to recover.
Canadian record producer Shane Lindstrom, also known as Murda Beatz, said in an interview Monday that he was close with both Smart and Modekwe.
He said on the weekend before the shooting, Modekwe texted him at about 3 p.m. saying, “I love you, baby.”
“He would say stuff like that when he was out having fun,” said Lindstrom. “It’s heartbreaking. I didn’t see (the text) right away.”
Modekwe was the brand manager for a hip-hop collective called Prime, said family and friends. In April, billboards of the group towered over Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square when they released their song “Sopranos.” The group also launched a clothing line last year with, which Modekwe modelled for.
Lindstrom said when he found out about the shooting, he kept trying to reach Smart and Modekwe.
“When I heard what was going on, I knew (Kosi) was with Smoke, so I texted Kosi saying, ‘I love you bro. When you get this call me, please, please, please,'” he said.
The two men were rushed to hospital following the shooting, but both succumbed to their injuries, police said.
Smart released his first single in 2015 and was on Drake’s Boy Meets World tour. Drake posted on Instagram a photo of him and Smart performing together with the caption, “Rest up Smoke.”
“Kosi was one of my best friends,” Lindstrom said. “Smoke was like a brother to me. It’s definitely a loss for Toronto, they’ll always be remembered.”
Smart’s family released a statement Sunday saying that he leaves behind a one-year-old daughter and 13 siblings.
“As a young man from Regent Park, he overcame poverty and grew into a responsible caring grown man who took care of his friends and family,” the statement said. “He helped people wherever he could and will be remembered for his huge smile and glowing personality.”
Lindstrom said he met both Smart and Modekwe in Toronto about four years ago and they instantly became friends. He said they would get together when Lindstrom would visit Toronto about once a month.
Modekwe grew up in Toronto’s west end with his single mother and two younger siblings.
“He was the oldest so he was always trying to take care of me, my brother and my mom,” said his sister Chinasa Modekwe in an interview.
She said Modekwe worked multiple part-time jobs to help pay the bills and later bought the family laptops and took their mother on her first vacation.
“He was a good man, with a lot of dreams, a lot of aspirations,” Chinasa said. “He had so much life in him, he had the biggest heart.”
A basketball star growing up, Modekwe played his the high school team and then for fun while he studied criminology at the University of Toronto.
He wanted to be a lawyer, Chinasa said, but her brother’s real passion was music as he was inspired by Kanye West, The Notorious B.I.G. and Drake.
One of the Prime members posted on Instagram on Sunday that he and Modekwe met in 2004 and were best friends for 14 years.
“His energy was like no other, he made everyone smile, made people feel happy, he would light any room, no matter how dark it was. It was very easy to be Kosi’s friend, he was a definition of friend,” Jermane Prime said in the post.
“Kosi was everything to Prime, everything to my career, my life, if it wasn’t for Kosi, I wouldn’t be alive, he literally saved my life once.”
There has been a string of shootings in Toronto in the past few weeks. On Sunday night, four people were injured after shots were fired downtown, and last month two young sisters were wounded during a shooting at a community playground.
Since June 25, there has been 199 shootings in the city and 22 killed by gun violence. This time last year, there were 170 shootings and 16 killed by gun violence.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford released a statement on Monday expressing his condolences to the victims.
“This has been a very difficult summer in our city, and thoughts and prayers just aren’t going to cut it anymore. We need action,” he said.
“I am looking forward to meeting with representatives from the Toronto police in the near future so we can get to work on a strategy to end this senseless violence.”
A vigil for Modekwe took place on Sunday night and a vigil for Smart is planned for Monday night.
Alanna Rizza, The Canadian Press