The thing that Kevin Robert Harris II (Track Bully) loved most was banging out music tracks. He played the piano. He knew how to compose. Music became his universe. Basketball used to be his love fling, but as he grew older, Harris immersed himself into the world of making music. He became pretty good at it, going from sampling to laying down tracks for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Ice Cube.
The N.W.A. charter member liked the stuff Harris was throwing down so much that he gave the 21-year-old a plug on his “I Am the West.” album. Harris produced the tracks for Ice Cube’s “Urbanian” on the 2010 album. This was a big deal for Harris and his meteoric rise on the music scene. He was on his way.
“It was a major accomplishment,” Kevin Harris Sr. said.
Harris never made it around to see the September 28, 2010, release date of “I Am the West.” Almost a year to “I Am the West” making its Billboard’s debut, Harris lay in a hospital fighting for his young life. On Sept. 20, 2009, Harris was doing what his father knew what his son was supposed to be doing: making music.
The younger Harris wasn’t a roadrunner. He didn’t hit the streets. He wasn’t tied up with any negative influences that could wreck his budding musical career. His parents didn’t raise him that way. With a faith background strengthened by attending St. Bernard Catholic High School in Los Angeles, Harris projected himself to be a model citizen.
“Kevin was a very humble child,” said LA City Wildcats Youth Academy Founder and President Derrick Cooper. “He never talked. You just give him an assignment, and he’d do it. Very focused on the court, but intimidating at the same time. He was a very rare kid. I’ve been doing this for 31 years, and I’ve only met two or three kids just like him. He had a very special spirit.”
That fact didn’t matter to the individual(s) who unloaded rounds of gunfire on Harris as he sat in his car in the parking lot near the studio he recorded his music at. Within an hour, the six-foot-three Harris, his love for life and his aspiring journey to be a great music producer, would be gone.
There still hasn’t been any real closure for the Harris family. The killer(s) are still on the loose. Nearing the nine-year mark of this unspeakable tragedy, the murder of Harris remains an unsolved mystery.
“They took the best thing to ever happen in my life away from me,” said the elder Harris.
The pain and emptiness the senior Harris now feel make it difficult to talk about. The hurt is indescribable and is just as raw today as it was back then. Up and down emotions play chest with Harris. There are good days. There are bad days. There are other days that are simply unbearable to pull through. It hasn’t been easy. Harris and his family are still looking for answers relating to the murder of the basketball star turned musician.
“I want to know who murdered my son,” Kevin’s mother, Katheryn Harris, said during an FBI press conference in March this year. “I want to look at them. God knows what else they might have done after my son was murdered.”
The FBI and the Inglewood Police Department have been looking for clues in the unsolved cold case with both law enforcement entities offering separate $25,000 rewards for tips surrounding the unexplainable homicide. The killing of Harris remains a baffling jigsaw puzzle.
However, a second fatal incident involving another high-profile hip hop star two years later raise questions on the similarities of the two homicide cases. M-Bone, the Cali Swag District dancer/rapper was also felled by gunfire. Even though M-Bone (Monte Ray Talbert) was shot and killed two years after Harris’ life was cut down, there is an interjecting pathway that connects the duo.
Both men were musically talented. Both were rising hip-hop stars. Both were young. Both were African American. Both died tragically in their vehicles by gunfire in Inglewood. Both were within close proximity of the recording studios they did their work in when they lost their lives.
“You get naive as an adult because of the generation you grew up in,” said Harris. “You misjudge the hearts of these young people now. They turn on each other. I try to tell these parents to know who your sons and daughter’s friends are. Know who they are, know how they behave, know what they say to your child.”
The younger Harris was not known to have inspired a list of enemies. He had no affiliation to gangs. He didn’t do drugs. He was not involved in criminal activities. By all accounts, Kevin Harris II walked the straight and narrow path.
“He wanted to start his own foundation for our youth to teach them the piano and let them know how do beats, but at the same time know the older music, the albums from the crates,” Harris said. “He went from hip hop to (John) Coltrane to jazz, you name it. Young people flocked to him. Young people loved him because his heart was genuine. His smile lit up a room. Just as he looked up to his dad, I looked up to him for his talent and his professionalism. He didn’t have an evil bone in his body. He just wanted to share his musical gift.”
The FBI has made a plea to the community to help them in their efforts to crack the case with any possible information leading up to the apprehension and detention of Harris’ killer(s).
“Twenty-one-year-old Kevin Harris II was in the early stages of his career but established artists—like iconic rapper Ice Cube—sought after his music,” said Mollie Halpern from the FBI. “Kevin was shot to death in his car near a recording studio in Inglewood, California, on September 20, 2009.”
“Kevin was a really good kid. He had no criminal record,” said FBI Special Agent Sean Sterle during that press briefing.
The past nine years has been a place of unmitigated sorrow for the older Harris. He misses the days when father and son used to talk music and go to baseball games. Their bond was a close one, a relationship unmistakably ripped apart by an act of what can be construed as domestic terrorism.
“It wasn’t a drive-by,” Harris said. “The lady (witness) saw them. It was a conversation. They didn’t roll by and shoot him. Whoever shot him, he had to have known. Everybody’s a suspect until proven otherwise.”
There is not a day that goes by that Harris doesn’t think about his namesake and what could have been. The thoughts of his son being the denied the right to live, not being afforded the opportunity to get married, to have children and hang out with grandkids, is not lost on him. It is a burden that weighs heavily, especially when July 25 rolls around every year.
Kevin Harris II would have turned 30 this year on that date. Unfortunately, there are no more birthday celebrations to be had by Harris’ family. That doesn’t bring a whole lot of comfort to his dad.
“I never had to worry about…where he was and what he was doing,” said Harris. “I knew that he was doing what he loved, something positive. I trusted him. But If I had to do it all over again, which we don’t get, I would have reeled him in a little bit. I was like a helicopter dad. Whenever he didn’t come home, I would text him a question mark and he knew what that meant. Just let me know where you are.”
Since that tragic night, those close to the Harris family have held a prayer vigil in his memory every year, shining the spotlight on his senseless murder. The killing of Kevin Harris II is yet another example of a young black life inexplicably being snatched away from his family and community.
“Kevin and his dad were so close,” said family friend Carlos Ramirez. “I’m 30 now, and I still can’t believe what happened to Kevin. I can’t believe that anyone would ever do something like that to Kevin.”
Harris refuses to let his son die in vain. He will not allow his likeness to become just another number. He wants to see justice carried out against the perpetrators involved in his son’s murder.
“I guess I was naïve to think that because my son went to Catholic school he would have this security blanket, nothing would ever happen to him in the streets,” Harris said. “What motivates me every day when I walked out the door is that I’m doing this for my son. It was cowardly and despicable what they did.”
I write about sports, racial and social justice, culture, and everything else in between. Beat writer for the Rams, Chargers, Lakers, and Clippers. Part of the inaugural Associated Press Sports Editors Diversity Fellowship class. Howard University alum.