Bobby Shmurda was never meant to be a one-hit wonder. When the release of his debut single Hot N*** became the song of 2014’s summer, everyone from Epic Records to Drake had their eyes on the Flatbush rapper, including law enforcement.
Just as talk of a full-length album began, the New York City Police arrested Shmurda, and his rap career went silent. Meanwhile, fans kept the rapper in the public eye through the #FreeBobbyShmurda campaign, a meme that began immediately after his arrest and has remained relevant since, bringing Shmurda to internet legend status.
Now, after six years of anticipation leading up to his February release, Shmurda will finally have a chance to live up to his legacy.
The Rise of Bobby Shmurda
Sha XL, the Epic Records talent agent famous for making Brooklyn rapper 50 Cent a household name, knew Shmurda was destined for success the moment he saw the Hot N**** music video. The concept is simple; Shmurda and a group of his friends are hanging out on a New York block, rapping, and dancing. So simple, it resonated with audiences..
In an interview with NPR, Sha remembers watching Shmurda for the first time and thinking, “That’s New York right there, this kid is a star.” Soon after, Shmurda was everywhere; Hot N**** went viral, and everyone, including Beyonce was dancing to its accompanying Shmoney Dance, a sort of before-its-time TikTok dance that instead swept platforms like Vine and YouTube.
Shmurda’s ability to go viral continued to translate onto a video of his Epic Records audition, which depicted the rapper grinning, leaning over tables, and shooting finger guns at board members with uncomfortable smiles. “That boy gave a performance like this was his last chance to do anything in life, he was a millionaire baby,” remembers Sha. Shmurda was signed to Epic Records the night of his audition.
While many knew that Shmurda’s rap collective, GS9, was rumored to be related to a series of crimes, no one seemed to care. In fact, his record label commodified upon his involvement in any crime, knowing full well the street cred attached to such rumors.
As Sha explained on NPR, “I know in hip-hop, the badder the better.”
By December, the rapper had released his first EP, Shmurda She Wrote, had given surprise performances for Drake and Meek Mill, and made his way to Jimmy Kimmel Live’s stage to perform his viral hit. However, just nine days after gracing the Jimmy Kimmel stage, the rapper was arrested in Quad Studios with 14 other members of GS9 on charges for conspiracy, reckless endangerment, and gun possession.
The longest sentence Shmurda faced was 25 years for his complacency in a crime he wasn’t present for. The prosecution saw GS9 as a gang, and Shmurda was running it. Thus began a saga of bail denials, claims of unlawful arrest, and ever changing sentences.
#FreeBobbyShmurda: The Campaign that Kept Shmurda’s Career Alive
The internet coped with the loss of their new hero as it does with every other: by meme-ing him. As news surrounding Shmurda’s arrest unfurled, the #FreeBobbyShmurda campaign began, and the slogan was everywhere from Twitter to T-Shirts. There was, of course, a painful truth behind his arrest; the same qualities that had made Shmurda attractive to talent agents were now placing him in a line of prominent rappers targeted by law enforcement, pinning him as the “leader” behind a series of violent crimes with little evidence of his involvement.
On September 9th 2016, Shmurda finally accepted a plea deal to serve seven years on the condition of a shorter sentence for his friend and fellow rapper, Rowdy Rebel’s. However, the saga still hadn’t ended.
Even as Shmurda’s case seemed to quiet down, his fans stayed loud. The “Free Bobby Shmurda” meme continued to come up alongside just about every current event. Donald Trump’s election brought pictures questioning if he’d pardon Shmurda, and each moment the world appeared to be on the edge of WWIII (too many times in the past 7 years) memes circulated depicting draft dodgers attending Bobby Shmurda concerts in prison.
When fliers advertising a National Walkout for Gun Control spread in 2018, high school students around the country began passing out fliers for a “Free Bobby Shmurda” walkout on the same day. While it’s unclear how many students actually walked out for Shmurda, the Instagram account for the event gained about 20k followers, making it clear that Shmurda was still the internet’s icon.
Shmurda’s Upcoming Release: An Epic Comeback
On January 11 2021, the internet received a new update on Shmurda’s release a post from his mom’s Instagram featuring a picture of Shmurda with the caption “My #MCM…. I am counting down just wishing we could run straight to February right quick. The comeback will be EPIC!!! I can’t wait to hug my child, it has been almost a year, anxiety is getting the best of me.”
Her words resonate with every other prediction for Shmurda’s comeback; despite only having a few hit singles from 2014 to show for his music career, everyone is planning on Shmurda’s future stardom. Statements have been released from Shmurda saying that he’s stayed up to date on hip hop trends, while studying his case along with gun and conspiracy laws to ensure his music career faces no more interruptions.
The success of Brooklyn drill rappers like Pop Smoke and Fivio Foreign (who reigns from the same neighborhood as GS9) demonstrates that the music scene is more ready than ever for more releases from the rapper. Every social media platform is prepared for its newest version of the Shmoney Dance.