In 2003, Carol City became part of the newly incorporated Miami Gardens. But the killings continued. By 2011, Miami Gardens was second in murders per capita in the county, with 24 killings, trailing only nearby Opa-locka. The next year, Miami Gardens notched 25 more homicides. By comparison, Hialeah, which has roughly double Miami Gardens' population of 110,000, had just four murders in 2011 and seven in 2012.

The crimes are often just as gruesome as the gangland killings of old. In a 32-hour span last month, unknown shooters killed a 12-year-old girl and injured her grandmother near their home on 42nd Avenue. Two other men were critically wounded in a hail of gunfire while they were at a McDonald's drive-thru at NW 27th Avenue and 183rd Street.

Bell wishes Carol City's success stories would do more to build up the community. "You can divert a lot of that negative energy into something positive," he opines.

Raider Klan members Yung Simmie, SpaceGhostPurrp, and Nell aim to build on their indie cred.
Stian Roenning
Raider Klan members Yung Simmie, SpaceGhostPurrp, and Nell aim to build on their indie cred.
Rick Ross went from Carol City to hip-hop superstar.
Randy Miramontez/Shutterstock
Rick Ross went from Carol City to hip-hop superstar.

For now, SpaceGhostPurrp and Gunplay might be too focused on beating their own demons and notching hip-hop success to worry about their hometown's fate.

After his two run-ins with the police this past November and January, SpaceGhostPurrp and his Raider Klan signed with the William Morris talent agency, which booked them for gigs at Ultra Music Festival in downtown Miami in March and Coachella in April.

But SpaceGhost's prospects have taken lumps in recent months. In June, hip-hop blogs buzzed with the news that he'd parted ways with talented Klan artists Denzel Curry, Sky Lex, Chris Travis, and Eddy Jordan. Factmag.com wrote on June 17 that "SpaceGhostPurrp's unpredictable streak is precisely what got people interested in the first place, but it seems like these days it might be bad for business."

Yet SpaceGhostPurrp dismisses the criticism, insisting the remaining eight members of Raider Klan, six of whom hail from Miami, form a strong core. Their recent marathon recording sessions have produced dozens of tracks, which SpaceGhostPurrp and Kadafi will whittle down into Raider Klan's album set to release on Empire Records next year.

"I'm trying to elevate the hip-hop movement in Miami," SpaceGhostPurrp says. "[I need to] stop worrying about what the haters say about us."

Gunplay isn't rushing to put out his debut, which he now expects will hit stores next summer. When he's not shooting videos for the songs on his mixtape Acquitted, he passes the time by taking his son to football practice, posting 15-second videos of himself acting a fool on Instagram, and penning lyrics.

"I've been gone for a minute," he says. "I want to capitalize on the buzz I am generating now. I want to take my time rallying up the troops."

While hip-hop journalists have obsessed over his swastika tattoo, a massive work on his back is the one that really warrants attention. In fact, it speaks louder than lyrics about the musicians' — and their neighborhood's — ongoing struggle. The huge portrait shows Christ holding a six-shooter to the chin of a big-horned Lucifer.

Asked what it means, Gunplay says, "I am a good soul caught in a bad world."

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