Shooting Star

Charles Trahan, co-star of Miami's popular rap duo Young & Restless, doesn't belong here. He should be in a recording studio. Or on MTV. Here, at Jackson Memorial Hospital, he's out of place, amid a tangle of bed linen and intravenous tubes, hurt filling his handsome young face.

So many other hip-hop artists would be better suited to this role. When rapper Bushwick Bill of Houston's notorious Geto Boys shot himself in the right eye recently, he and his musical group did the logical thing: they slapped a hospital-corridor photograph of Bill, bloody eye socket and all, on the front of their new album, We Can't Be Stopped. Geto Boys sing in gory and graphic detail about a woman-mutilating psychopath, about "Another Nigger in the Morgue." They flaunt their ghetto background, and when the ugly pay back comes, it's almost predictable. Other rappers - Ice-T, NWA, Public Enemy - dance with fire, too. And it's no put-on, so if reality were to mix with art, if one of those songs came violently to life, at least it would provide a certain symmetry.

Not so with Carol City native Charles Trahan. Young & Restless is best known for hits such as a cover of the Coasters' 1959 smash "Poison Ivy," and the jovial, adolescent "B Girls," which enjoyed national success as a single, album cut, and video. Trahan and his partner, Leonerist Johnson, are kids rapping for kids, all humor and hooks, forsaking hard-core realities of life and death for the good times of youthful innocence. Even in a song titled "Gimme Them Guts," the subject matter is sex, not violence.

But for someone who presents such light-hearted music, Trahan's short career has been marked with two tragic setbacks, each of which occurred at precisely the wrong time.

In the summer of 1990, as Young & Restless rode high on the popularity of their first album, Something to Get You Hyped, their manager/mentor Sam "P-Man" Ferguson was sent to federal prison to serve a three-year sentence on cocaine and weapons charges, leaving his wife in charge of the burgeoning rap act. Trahan and Johnson filed suit against the Fergusons, claiming they'd been shortchanged after their managers were paid $67,000 by the group's record label, that they weren't remunerated for live appearances and received none of the loot from the hot-selling "B Girls." Daisy Ferguson reportedly hired two impersonators to perform as Young & Restless when Trahan and Johnson refused to work with her.

In late summer of this year, that matter was resolved through an out-of-court settlement. With the ordeal behind them, Young & Restless moved on to better things. A second album, appropriately titled That Was Then, This Is Now, is nearly finished. Miami's Pandisc label is set to release the lead single the minute George Benson and Warner Bros. grant permission for the use of a Benson sample in the song.

But Charles Trahan is in no shape to perform the material live. According to a Pandisc spokesman, Trahan was spending some of his spare time laying down studio tracks for another local rap outfit. On Saturday, October 12, the musicians broke for lunch, driving to a market in Liberty City, near NW 63rd Street and 15th Avenue. Trahan and his companions encountered a group of strangers in the parking lot outside the store, and something happened. Trahan was shot twice, once in the arm and once in the back.

"I have very little information," says Det. Joe Rubio, an investigator on the Miami Police Department's assault squad, "and I can't go into detail about what I do have." Rubio says there are no suspects in the shooting. He doesn't know what type of gun was used or how many shots were fired. He won't say who Trahan's companions were, he doesn't know what happened to their car, which he says was a rental. "Nobody wants to tell me anything," Rubio explains. "I have no cooperating witnesses. The investigation will continue. All I can do is gather information."

Although police might never sort out what got Trahan shot, no one disputes that the rap star was an unlikely victim of ghetto gunplay. "Charles got shot?" says William Robinson, who filed the lawsuit against the Fergusons. "No way. Not him. Charles wasn't into the dope game. He was the brains, a nice, nice guy. He is the `young' of Young & Restless." Pandisc president Bo Crane agrees. "Charles is a regular kid," says Crane. "He was definitely not a player. They were on somebody's turf. The area they were in is a real dope hole, and you just don't go over there. They did, and they got called on it. But Charles was just sitting in the car."

For the past two-and-a-half weeks, twenty-year-old Charles Trahan has been lying in a bed in Jackson Memorial Hospital, living someone else's song.

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Greg Baker