Maybe me. Maybe you. But the real question is why?

Who Shot Fat Tone? 

Maybe me. Maybe you. But the real question is why?

Punk-ass bitch.

That's what a guy like Fat Tone might call a guy like me.

I don't know Fat Tone. He doesn't know me. He hasn't come over to the house lately for meat loaf and Pictionary. I haven't sent him a get-well-soon card.

Anthony "Fat Tone" Watkins might be a sweetheart. He could read to senior citizens. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Be kind to his mother and small animals. But a rapper whose album, Tha Stick Up Kid, features songs such as "Im'a Getcha," "OG Stacka Dolla" and "We G's" probably doesn't own the sunniest of dispositions -- or a dictionary.

Not that punk-ass bitch isn't an apt appraisal of my masculinity. I'm not tough. I'm not hard. I'm not strapped. I don't bust caps. I don't rock ice. I'm not rolling on dubs. I've never seen a drive-by. Or a walk-by. I've never even been in a fight. I've never been shot.

Tone has, though, and it unnerved quiet Brookside. You may have read about it in the paper or heard it reported on the news. Thirty seconds of "one wounded as gunmen chase rappers" before on to the weather, the Chiefs and kittens caught in trees.

The investigation is pending. No confirmed suspects. No confirmed motives. What we know comes from the police report and eyewitness accounts.

In the wee hours of October 17, Tone headed to KKFI 90.1 in Westport for an interview during Cool Wayne's After Spot Hip-Hip show. He was joined by his manager, Charles Littlejohn, and rappers C-Bo (Shawn Thomas), Killa Tay (Daniel Curtis) and Lil' Psycho (Augustus Rochelle) to promote that night's show, called "Kings of the Underground." Tone was the only KC native on an otherwise California bill. C-Bo is West Coast Mafia Records, and he's a close friend of Tone's mentor, Killa Tay.

According to a Web interview with Littlejohn, things went smoothly at 90.1. Around 3:10 a.m., the group climbed into a black 2002 Ford Excursion. Littlejohn was driving. C-Bo was in the passenger seat, Killa Tay sat in the backseat on the driver's side, and Lil' Psycho rode in the middle of the backseat. Fat Tone was in the backseat on the passenger side. The Excursion turned south on Main Street as a black Ford F-150 pickup drew even with it.

"We was rollin' and a black Ford ... pulled up right to Tone's window and bumped out ... we took off ... shit, they was on it," Littlejohn told Siccness.net (which brags that it's "the last remaining sanctuary for gangsta rap").

Two assailants opened fire with a handgun and an assault rifle.

"They started shooting a handgun first ... and then they starting dumping ... with an AK or something ... I'm like 'damn!' I didn't want to tear my shit up, so I rolled it up."

Littlejohn hit the gas. As the vehicle sped down Main, shooters pummeled the Excursion with bullets. The windows shattered. Contrary to some reports, though, nobody returned fire.

"Niggas handled everything like soldiers," Littlejohn told Siccness. "There wasn't no hollering like bitches. Niggas just like 'Go cuz! Go!' We was just getting out of the way of the gunfire and shit, that was that ... If we had guns, ain't no way in hell we woulda been running. We woulda pulled over and we woulda got down ... [But] We was naked, man."

The Excursion stopped at 61st Street and Main. Somebody called 911. Witnesses saw the pickup speeding across the state line with its lights out, but the drivers managed to elude Prairie Village police. News crews swarmed to the scene.

"Only reason the media got involved man, was 'cause it was in a white neighborhood. If I would've gotten on the other side, the media wouldn't have given a fuck," Littlejohn said.

As many as 150 rounds were reportedly fired, though the number was likely far fewer. Fat Tone was hit twice. The police report cited "at least one gunshot wound to [the] torso." Littlejohn reported that Tone was hit in the ribs and leg. Tone was taken to Research Medical Center and listed in critical but stable condition.

Who shot Fat Tone? Maybe I did. Maybe you did. Somebody said the beef was a Bloods-versus-Crips thing. A West Coast-versus-Midwest thing. A Lots-of-People-Don't-Like-Fat-Tone thing. A random thing.

It wasn't random, though Tone may not have been the primary target. Somebody spraying a vehicle with an assault rifle isn't exactly a surgical strike. Besides, the gunmen couldn't shoot their way out of a paper bag.

Fat Tone got lucky -- and not just because he's been released from the hospital and is expected to recover. (He did not return the Pitch's calls.) Surviving a hail of gunfire is the fast track to career advancement. That gives you street cred, even if your rhymes could've been written by a dyslexic four-year-old.

The underlying appeal is why Scarface is hip-hop's Rosetta stone. Why kids play cops and robbers instead of cops and real estate brokers. Why we love Tony Montana, Jesse James, Genghis Khan and Robin Hood.

It's why the ghetto is a commodity packaged in reality and sold in suburbia while suburbia is packaged in surrealism and sold in the ghetto.

It's why cul-de-sac folk watch Menace II Society and rap along to "Fuck tha Police." It's why it's a thrill to drive through Compton on vacation. It's why Johnson County kids flash gang signs and sip 40s of Olde E. We want what we don't have: excitement.

That's why kids around 39th Street and Prospect watch Scarface and rap along to "Holidae In." Why it's a thrill to drive a sleek, black Excursion with 24-inch rims. Why hip-hop is inundated with cash, jewelry, clothes and hos. We want what we don't have: status.

At its best, mainstream hip-hop is honest -- Tupac as thug poet, Public Enemy as conscience and chaos, Eminem connecting grit, wit and gall. But the underground? What happens to fledgling artists with blurred vision and unrealistic expectations? What happens when millions of desperate voices spit over one another without saying anything?

Stroll through the local-music section at any Kansas City record store. You'll see dozens of rap albums plastered with images of Benjamins and half-naked chicks, discs with titles such as Now or Never and Hustlin' 'til I Die. Everyone is hard. Everyone is a pimp. Everyone is rich (even though the only area rapper who can buy groceries on the mic is Tech N9ne, and he probably has to clip coupons). Most of these records feature no fewer than 1,247 guest appearances.

Most are collecting dust.

But grinding out a 9 to 5 isn't top priority when Fat Tone's mentors are dropping albums such as One Life 2 Live, 'Til My Casket Drops and Mr. Mafioso. Tone's own Stick Up Kid was added to the Siccness.net catalog two days after he was shot. It's now a top-ten seller on Rapbay.com. Timing is everything.

Image is everything, too. In an interview after the shooting, C-Bo compassionately told Allhiphop.com, "They got my boy twice in the back. We was in a clean-ass Excursion, sitting on 24's and shit."

Man, those were some nice fucking rims.

I don't know Fat Tone. I don't know the streets. I don't know anything about gangsta shit. But, punk-ass bitch that I may be, I know that even if you're only living the appearance of gangsta shit, gangsta shit will catch up to you.

And I know it's not worth dying for.

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