By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
By Ashley Zimmerman
By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
Morrison moved back in with her mother shortly after Markese was born. She and the baby lived in the garage, which had been converted into a two-bedroom efficiency. When Carol City's gang war exploded, it soon hit close to home. Morrison's ex-boyfriend and Markese's father, Mark Rolle, was a member of Opa-locka's 22nd Avenue Gang. Her brother and nephew were locked up for roles in the Boobie Boys' crimes.
Markese clung to hip-hop, eschewing the bloodshed for beats with his cousin, Kadafi (now the chief exec of Raider Klan's record label), and DoughX2, now an impish rapper in SpaceGhostPurrp's crew.
"I was 7 years old when I started rapping," SpaceGhostPurrp says. "Me and Dough Dough would freestyle for Kadafi and his friends at our grandma's house. We used to spit 1,000 bars in an hour."
Kadafi, now a slender 31-year-old with a bushy beard and dreadlocks, remembers their nonstop rap battles. "It would go on all day," he says. "We could be walking to the corner store and they'd go at it."
When he was a student at Silver Trail Middle School in Pembroke Pines, though, Markese got into heavy metal, skateboarding, and painting his fingernails black. "A nigga goes through a time in his life when he's not doing what everybody else is doing," he says. "Back then, a nigga riding a skateboard in Carol City or any black neighborhood in Miami was considered lame. But shit, I still blended in with everybody."
His mom at the time was trying to build her own career as a rapper, working with Miami hip-hop artist and producer Disco Rick, who was then cutting tracks for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. "I'd bring Markese with me to the studio," Morrison says. "He'd just sit and watch Disco Rick work the engineering board. It definitely got Markese's attention."
Morrison's musical dreams fizzled because she didn't want to rap about Carol City's street violence. "I tried to go that route, but it wasn't me," she says.
Drifting into the hip-hop scene so early wasn't all positive for Markese, though. He was only 13 when he began experimenting with marijuana and purple drank.
In 2006, when he was 15, Purrp, Kadafi, DoughX2, and another friend, Ladarius Frazer, who went by "Y.M.F. Jitt," established Raider Klan. They holed up in a one-bedroom apartment near Ives Dairy Road where SpaceGhostPurrp made beats on his laptop. At the time, Markese went by his producer name, Muney Jordan, a nod to basketball god Michael Jordan.
The crew was tight and helped Markese develop his unique style. But their world was jolted on March 13, 2010. Frazer was playing dice in Carol City Park when an argument erupted. Someone pulled a gun and shot him dead. "We had a vision. We had a dream," SpaceGhostPurrp says. "But he just ended up on the wrong path."
Six months later, after graduating from Everglades High School, Markese adopted his SpaceGhostPurrp moniker and released his first mixtape, NASA. "He's just like the character from Adult Swim, except he's black instead of white, has golds in his mouth, and a cup of lean in his hand," he says of his new identity.
Between 2010 and 2011, SpaceGhostPurrp released four mixtapes, making beats in his bedroom at grandma's house. Other rappers took note, including California's Kreayshawn, who turned other artists onto him. "She let everybody in Los Angeles hear my shit," SpaceGhostPurrp says. "Then Odd Future heard my shit," he says, referring to the collective led by Tyler the Creator at the vanguard of the indie rap scene.
"[They] started playing it at their shows," he says. "Before I knew it, I had niggas looking for me on Twitter."
His Twitter followers hooked him up with Juicy J, the Memphis rapper and member of Three 6 Mafia. SpaceGhostPurrp also linked up with New York City up-and-comer A$AP Rocky. "Once Purrp did his first show in New York, he really took off," Kadafi says. "People fell in love with his Miami persona — the all-black clothes, the black hoodie, and the golds in his mouth."
By the beginning of 2012, Raider Klan had ballooned from three members to 12 apostles, and SpaceGhostPurrp had signed a deal with British indie label 4AD. In June of that year, he released his full-length Mysterious Phonk: The Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp to rave reviews. Pitchfork gave it an 8 out of 10, praising it for celebrating the "weirdest, unprecedented mutations of hip-hop."
The rapper and his crew toured Europe and the West Coast. But by last fall, some observers thought the fame was getting to SpaceGhostPurrp's head. He got into a childish squabble with onetime pal A$AP Rocky and accused a member of his crew of jumping Raider Klan homeboy Matt Stoops in New York.
After exchanging threats via dis tracks and interviews with MTV, the animosity came to a head November 8, 2012, when A$AP Rocky performed at the Fillmore Miami Beach. SpaceGhostPurrp and the Raider Klan began shouting insults and heckling A$AP Rocky, who looked out into the crowd and yelled, "Shut the fuck up!"
When the show was over, the crews collided outside. The melee ended when four gunshots rattled the air, scattering the crowd. A Miami Beach Police gang detective then handcuffed SpaceGhostPurrp, but the rapper avoided arrest.