A Grammy-winning artist was sitting in his car at 7:30 a.m. when a gun was pointed at his head. The young man holding it demanded the artist give him his wallet. It had only $3 inside.
The crime - and the police response that followed it - was more than enough to shake up Che "Rhymefest" Smith, a Chicago hip-hop artist best known for co-writing Jesus Walks by Kanye West and the Oscar-winning Glory from the 2014 film Selma with John Legend and Common. Rhymefest was uninjured, but his wallet was stolen.
"I'm not even mad," he wrote on Twitter following the incident. "I'm (expletive) hurt."
Rhymefest has been a vocal advocate against crime and poverty in Chicago, where the 39-year-old artist lives and works. He's chided Spike Lee for his portrayal of the city in the movie Chi-Raq, run for a spot on city council, created a documentary exploring homelessness through the eyes of his father and spoken out about music that glorifies violence. After experiencing that violence firsthand on a Saturday morning, Rhymefest took to Twitter with a message for the man who robbed him.
"To the young brother that put the gun to my head this morning & took my wallet," he began. "You don't know how you just damaged your community.
"I defend you against police brutality," he continued. "I work on your behalf."
To the young brother that put the gun to my head this morning & took my wallet. You don't know how you just damaged your community.— Rhymefest (@RHYMEFEST) August 27, 2016
Rhymefest pointed out that despite his success, he still lives on Chicago's South Side, an area often defined by its reputation for violence. On Friday, a cousin of NBA player Dwayne Wade named Nykea Aldridge was shot and killed there. Police say she was walking down the street pushing her child in a stroller when she was unintentionally caught in the midst of gang-related gunfire.
"I lived here on the southside because I thought it mattered," Rhymefest said. "I'm reconsidering."
He told the man who robbed him that when he looks into the wallet and sees the name Che Smith on the ID, contact him and apologise.
When you look in my Wallet & see the name Che Smith on the ID. DM me, yes contact me apologise and talk to me like a brother.— Rhymefest (@RHYMEFEST) August 27, 2016
Give me faith that it's our desperation & not our hearts thatre dark. The man who robbed me I want to reach out to me If I know him tell him— Rhymefest (@RHYMEFEST) August 27, 2016
"You were gonna shoot me in the face for a wallet," he wrote. "I had the power to give you a job!"
Nearly two hours later, Rhymefest continued tweeting. This time, his message was for the Chicago police. "You wonder [why] we don't report crimes?" he said. "The police treated me disgustingly."
He also tweeted a two-minute video of his interactions with officers at the station where he drove after he was robbed. It begins by showing a police officer sitting behind a desk. It is clear that she and Rhymefest have been arguing. The officer tells him he can't record inside the station. Another officer asks him to leave. Rhymefest complains about the first officer was ignoring him, eating and playing Candy Crush on her phone while he tried to tell her what happened. She tells him he wasn't giving her the information needed to make a report.
"I am in shock because I just had a gun to my head!" he tells them.
You wonder we don't report crimes? The police treated me disgustingly pic.twitter.com/fY9VQrqDpz— Rhymefest (@RHYMEFEST) August 27, 2016
After he shared the video of the interaction online, Rhymefest received a tweet from police department's spokesman and a call from its chief of patrol, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
"I'm sure they're thinking, 'We messed up, because that was 'somebody,'" he told the Sun-Times. "But that's not how it should be. How would they feel if somebody that doesn't have my resources was treated the same way?"