Webbie Knew Alton Sterling His Entire Life and Discusses How His Death Affects the Baton Rouge Community
The death of Alton Sterling, who was killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, La. on July 5, has sparked outrage across the country. Local law enforcement responded to a 911 call in which the caller (apparently a homeless man) said Sterling had threatened a man with a gun. In video footage captured by bystanders, Sterling, who was selling CDs outside of a convenience store at the time, was approached by police, who got into a physical altercation with the 37-year-old and opened fire on him. Unfortunately, Sterling was killed.
The video footage quickly spread across social media, igniting the conversation surrounding the strained relationship between law enforcement and minorities -- particularly Black people -- throughout the country. Everyone from entertainers and athletes to politicians and social activists have spoken out on the issue, including various members of the hip-hop community.
Some rappers released politically-charged songs following his death while others have sounded off through social media and marched in Black Lives Matter protests. But one artist who happens to be especially close to the situation is Trill Entertainment artist Webbie, a native of Baton Rouge who helped put the unsung town back on the map during the mid-aughts with hits like the Bun B-assisted heater "Gimme That," as well as memorable singles like "Bad Bitch" and "Independent."
The former wild child may have been notorious for his savage ways during the earlier portion of his career (he didn't name his Savage Life album series for nothing) but has admittedly matured over the years and finds it necessary to speak out on social issues affecting his community.
XXL got Webbie on the phone to share his thoughts on the death of Alton Sterling, the relationship between Baton Rouge residents and law enforcement, as well as how the city plans to move forward in the aftermath of this tragic incident.
XXL: Were you in Baton Rouge when the news of Alton Sterling's death broke?
Webbie: Nah, man. I was in Canada, somewhere, I was out of town, man. I heard about that, man. I had to come [home], you know. It shook the world. It's crazy.
How did you first hear about it?
People started calling my phone, then it hit the news. That's what really let me know it was real. You know, being from Baton Rouge that shit was like some kind of magic or some shit. Like, you'd never think that shit would hit so close to home. You'd think that kind of shit would only happen outta town, you know what I'm saying? That shit made the worldwide CNN. Police done killed a Black man right there in my motherfucking neighborhood. That's crazy, man.
Did you have a relationship with him or were you at all familiar with him?
Yeah, man. I been knowing him, shit, damn near all my life, my whole career. He used to sell CDs, you know what I'm saying? Like, little dude used to be posted up out there right outside that little store. He used to sell CDs so everybody know him, you know what I'm saying? Everybody in the city.
What has the mood been like in Baton Rouge in the aftermath of this tragedy?
Me, personally, I don't understand it. It's hard to accept. Like I said, I had to come to Baton Rouge, everybody was already on their shit. I told you man, they rioting right now, they really out there. Like everybody done came together. They moving, still, everybody out there. For the first two days, you wouldn't even see a police officer because of all of them people together and guns was spraying.
I think they just got the police from New Orleans or Lake Charles or something [for backup]. And to have friends probably innocent that's incarcerated and the proof wasn't even there that they really did the shit, you know what I'm saying? But they go "But they shouldn't have murdered somebody, so you go to jail," so let's keep it like that. Rest in peace to the dead.
What was the nature of the relationship between the residents of Baton Rouge and law enforcement prior to the Alton Sterling incident?
I think it's the same everywhere. When I say that, I mean they got good police and they have bad police. Like he was saying when he was doing the shooting, he was like, "I don't play." Like he was saying, I'm not that good kind of police, I'm that dirty motherfucker. So they got good ones and they got bad ones, you know what I'm saying?
But they human, too. They got kids that want them to come home when they get off work that's depending on them to buy them some stuff for Christmas. They got kids, too, so I love them too, so it's all love. But it's a right and it's a wrong in life, man. Savage life.
Do you feel the police force in Baton Rouge have an agenda against African Americans or that this was an isolated incident?
Some of the police minds already in the wrong, amped up, Superman, "I'll do you something" [state]. That badge will make you feel like a Robocop [and] higher than the other folks, you know what I'm saying? But black folks, we all can stay vocal and be smart about the situation. We can't just start saying, "Fuck the police, fuck all y'all," we need 'em, 'cause it'll be a real real crazy society without them.
Everybody needs somebody. I start to understand that more and more as the days go by, what that shit means. Everybody needs somebody, you know what I'm saying? But God, praise the lord again, he controls everything. Like years and years from now, he already know what's gonna happen, so I hope everybody gets right with God, you know. As a solo soldier, as a solo person, get your heart right with God, man. And walk by faith and not by sight, and let's get it.
Have you had any run-ins with the law enforcement in Baton Rouge and if so, were there any incidents that got especially tense?
What? Me and Trill Family, we the kings of the city, man. The police been on my CEOs, they done did time, Boosie done been to jail, everybody. They done broke in the house and stole, [like], "We the police, fuck y'all," and that's just how it goes. Not all the police, the dirty fucked up ones, yeah, they was catching us, [like], "Hold up, fuck that rap shit." Trying to shut down our whole fucking business. A successful business.
A number of people have brought up the fact that Alton Sterling was in possession of a firearm at the time of his death and have used his prior criminal history as a means to justify the cops' actions. What would your response be to that?
Man, everybody probably got a gun. If that was the case, they'd just get to shooting everybody right now. Everybody probably got a gun right now, but if it's in your pocket and you ain't pointing it and you ain't trying to kill nobody, that shouldn't even come up, you know what I'm saying. They gotta find something to say, they gotta find something. So they'll probably find some more shit.
They'll probably be talking about the man's uncle in a few days, [like], "Yeah, his uncle was crazy." They gonna try, but right is right and wrong is wrong, man and innocent man shouldn't have to fight for his life in front of his child. He got shot down. That shit was crazy to me, man, I said "Fuck!" you know.
How has the local hip-hop community in Baton Rouge responded to the death of Alton Sterling and have you spoken with any other Louisiana artists about it?
I'd say people that was beefing or whatever you wanna call it since elementary school, man, they all folks, everybody done came together. They wasn't even worrying about that beef right now and that was good to see. Everybody together and just wanting unity, you feel me. It's unity right now. We want justice. Like Martin Luther King, baby.
Somebody told me, like, "Don't do nothing cause they gonna get killed just like Martin Luther King." Like, somebody gotta die, for the people! Somebody gonna have to take the loss. That's just what comes with it. But when you fall, fall for something, don't fall for nothing. Don't fall for anything, you know what I'm saying.
According to your former label mate, Lil Boosie, as well as Kevin Gates, the Black community in Baton Rouge has had longstanding issues with how they're treated by law enforcement. What are some ways that relationship can be improved on the cops part?
Man, we gotta pray and the right people gotta look at each as brothers. We can't look at each other as police and street people, we gotta look at each other as fam, bro. We gotta look at each other as God's kids. And to some people that sounds like comedy, but that's the only way or it's gonna be the same forever. We gotta find some kind of way to find that love between everybody, man, and that's the only way it's gonna work. Shout out to everybody, my white people, my black people, I'm talking to you! It's the love, man. Real love out here in this world.
Do you feel Alton Sterling's death will prompt change in Baton Rogue for the better or do you feel it will further strain the relationship between law enforcement and locals?
The world gonna keep turning, bro, and this shit crazy, man, you know what I'm saying? We gonna have to get the right leaders. They gonna have to put the right leaders up there instead of these false ass motherfuckers, man. They gonna have to put real leaders who got real people that can change shit involved and let them get up there and talk. Until then, shit, all these old wack ass motherfuckers... I ain't gonna say too much, though, 'cause I'm not a hater. So if you getting your fucking shit and you're doing good, congratulations, man. But real leaders, man. Real leaders.
Hip-Hop Reacts to Baton Rouge Resident Alton Sterling's Death During Altercation With Police