Kevin O. Turner Jr., a talented, up-and-coming rapper from Buffalo, took to Facebook last July on his 21st birthday.
“I’m in this Cadillac doing the dash!!!” Turner wrote, noting that many African-Americans don’t make it to that age.
Turner never made it to 22.
Known to friends as “KT,” Turner was fatally shot Jan. 21 in Niagara Falls. Police are still searching for his killer.
Jay Thornton, a longtime friend, said Turner wasn’t involved in any kind of “street things,” like selling drugs or committing home invasions.
“Did he feel like he was a target? Of course. He’s an entertainer,” Thornton said. “We’re young black men we always feel like we’re a target, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t like he was looking over his shoulder because he didn’t have any problems.”
As a musician and performer, Turner initially went by “Filly Bandz,” playing off the Fillmore Avenue neighborhood where he grew up. Later, he switched to “Loot Boss.”
Turner had been playing music since the age of 6 and started recording his own songs by about age 12. His parents were churchgoers and he started playing piano in church, Thornton said.
He gravitated to rap music and started making music with Thornton in 2013. They were a couple of years apart in age but grew up in the same neighborhood in Buffalo – Turner around Fillmore and Inter Park Avenue and Thornton a few blocks south at Fillmore and Winslow Avenue.
Thornton said Turner, then 16, came over to his house with an idea for a song.
“He plays the song for me,” Thornton said. “I’m like ‘Yo, that’s amazing. Let’s do this.’ ”
That song, titled “Cash,” ended up getting picked up by a blog called Coast 2 Coast Mixtapes.
And Thornton and Turner kept moving ahead with their musical pursuits.
When they started recording in Thorton’s father’s attic, they recorded using a microphone that sat atop two suitcases. A couple of do-it-yourself musicians, they put the microphone inside a shoebox, a low-cost method to raise the sound quality.
Thornton started a company called Young Creative Minds, which was a music label as well as apparel and design operations. Thornton recorded first under the name “King Midas” and then “King Loot.” Thornton and Turner together were “Loot Boys.”
The aspiring musicians put together their own tour, the LootSeason Tour, complete with a couple of rental cars and at least a half dozen local musicians. They drove more than 3,000 miles in early 2016, making eight tour stops.
Turner oozed with confidence, according to his friend. When they were starting out, Turner could convince almost anyone to pay something – even $1 – for one of his CDs. Sometimes they sold their music for spare change just to get enough money to eat, he said.
“This is our hottest CD. You better get this for a dollar,” was one of the ways Turner would try to make a sale, according to Thornton.
Turner was relentless in promoting his songs online, too. And he always seemed to be mindful of his roots in Buffalo and the tough economic situation he grew up in.
“Came from the trenches used to be happy to get that 25 cent huggy from the store,” he posted on Twitter in November.
What resonates to Thornton was Turner’s dedication and ambition.
“There was never an if, never an ‘I think we might,'” he said. “Let’s work. Let’s do what we have to do,” was Turner’s attitude, Thornton said.
Turner graduated from Burgard High School in 2014, according to a Buffalo Public Schools spokeswoman. His work experience included a sales job at Fuccillo Chevrolet on Grand Island from November 2015 to February 2016 and being a technician at Sonwil Distribution in Buffalo in the spring of 2017.
Turner had moved to Niagara Falls near the end of last summer, according to Thornton, and he continued making music. In November, a music video for his songs “All Sold” and “Big Loot” was posted on YouTube. It was filmed where he grew up, on Inter Park and Fillmore avenues.
Turner was visiting someone when he was shot shortly after 4:30 p.m. Jan. 21 on the porch of a home on the 1800 block of Niagara Street in the Falls.
Investigators are making progress with the case, said Niagara Falls Detective Lt. John Conti said.
Thornton said he’s tired of seeing young people lost to violence in the Buffalo area. People need to wake up and understand they have to work to change the environment many have to grow up in, he said.
“There has to be a point of equilibrium, where we just wake up and say enough is enough.”
Turner’s funeral was held Jan. 27 at Tried Stone Baptist Church on Woodlawn Avenue.
His survivors include a daughter, Ariel Johnson-Turner, who was born when Turner was 17; his father, Kevin O. Turner Sr., and mother, Robin Jenkins-Stone; and 10 siblings.
“Really, I just want it to be known that he was just a good person,” Thornton said.