When Taymor McIntyre, the Arlington, Texas rapper better known as Tay-K was sentenced on Tuesday to serve 55 years in prison for his role in a deadly robbery in 2016, the reaction on social media was of general ambivalence. Posts from rappers, executives, and listeners referenced the case as “sad” and that “clout is a dangerous drug.” But in Dallas, the closest hip-hop hub to his hometown, it sounded more like radio silence.
McIntyre was found guilty in the murder of 21-year-old Ethan Walker following a week-long trial. He had already pled guilty to two armed robberies but maintained his innocence in the murder of Walker and will have to serve at least 27 and a half years behind bars before he is eligible for parole.
According to court documents, McIntyre, along with three other juveniles and four adults participated in the robbery after one of the teens had been dating a man, Zachary Beloate, whom she later planned to rob for drugs and money. After one attempt proved unsuccessful, the group of individuals barged into Beloate’s home in July 2016. Walker, who lived with Beloate, was sitting on the floor after the robbers demanded cellphones and was fatally shot in the stomach. Beloate was also shot but ran to a neighbor’s to get help.
McIntyre was subsequently arrested for the crime at 16 and placed on house arrest. He had reached out to bloggers and local rap media in Dallas to look into his music, but by then, he’d grown infamous after tweeting, “Fuck dis house arrest shit fuck 12 they gon hav 2 catch me on hood.”
He cut off his ankle monitor and fled. The three-month manhunt for McIntyre as he evaded authorities resulted in his profile growing by the thousands. When “The Race,” a 104-second bombastic spurt of one-liners built around a child-like carnival loop was released, it should have become a launching point for a rising street rapper from North Texas. Instead, on the same day the single and video were made public, Tay-K was apprehended in New Jersey and extradited back to Texas. Less than seven months after its June 2017 release, “The Race” was certified platinum, becoming the biggest rap song to come from Arlington since GS Boyz “Stanky Legg” was released in 2005.
Due to the nature of what Tay-K had been charged with — multiple murders and robberies — “The Race” felt like a giant, if not catchy taunt to law enforcement. The rush of the virality of the single prompted remixes from the likes of YBN Nahmir, Lil Yachty, 21 Savage, Young Nudy and more. It grew into an audible art piece. Donald Glover famously used the song to soundtrack a surreal scene where a drug dealer is robbed at the fast-food restaurant he works at in season 2 of his hit series Atlanta.
The song was deemed the No. 1 song of 2017 by The FADER. In her assessment of the single, Rawiya Kameir wrote, “Can a piece of art be invalidated by the circumstances under which it was created?” To those when asked to listen to “The Race” inside of a Tarrant County courtroom last week, it was near all the evidence they needed after only four hours of deliberation.
In tragic fashion, the song wound up joining the ranks of songs that preceded it — YNW Melly’s “Murder on My Mind” and Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga” — as records of authenticity and success that ultimately became the swords that cut the legs from their creators. Melly himself faces a double murder charge in Florida and Shmurda is serving the fourth year of a prison sentence for conspiracy among other charges. “Murder On My Mind” has the potential to be used against Melly as “Hot Nigga” was against Bobby. A deputy chief of the New York Police Department read the indictment against Shmurda in December 2014 saying, “[Hot Nigga”] was almost like a real-life document of what [Shmurda and his GS9 crew] were doing on the street.”
University of Georgia law professor Andrea Dennis said in an interview with Genius regarding “The Race” being used in court, “The song is used to show that he was charged, he was on house arrest, cut off his ankle monitor and fled the jurisdiction. This song indicates he thought he was guilty. The song is being on the run after being charged with multiple crimes and if you looked at the literal simplistic lyrics, might suggest he tried to beat a case, he didn’t so he fled the jurisdiction.”
Still, Tay-K continued to send messages out to the world via his manager while behind bars. He kept up his Instagram profile, posting news clippings from when he was removed from a Spotify playlist due to the streaming services’ Anti-Hate policy or a lengthy letter he wrote while imprisoned, petitioning to be part of the 2018 XXL Freshman class. One of his main points of reason? “The Race” had ballooned to over 100 million views on YouTube. “Being a kid that came from nothing, I feel like that says alot and motivates other unfortunate kids to dream big and reach for the stars, making your challenges temporary and your vision permanent, no matter what situation that I’m facing,” he wrote.
The last image on the page, shared in August of 2018 features Tay-K seated, pointing his hands like guns at the camera. “Live From the Gates of Hell #FreeMe,” the caption reads.
“This particular situation is based on a real tragedy,” Joshua Wilson, host of the Dallas-based Don’t Take It Personal podcast says. “It’s a multi-layered situation with a lot of different factors to it. But I’ll never say ‘Free Tay-K.’ Because of what he’s been convicted of? I can’t ride for that.”
Lauren Whiteman, an editor of the Dallas-based Good Culture imprint relates Tay-K’s sentencing to something bigger, the pitfalls of pressure as a teenager asked to constantly prove their manhood.
“It’s way too much, especially on black ones,” she says. “To be seen as a man, there are extra things you get pushed to do. So for [Tay-K], there’s all that potential stuck in a vacuum. But there’s a feeling of ‘what can you do?’ I wonder how his life would be different if he knew what pressure could do for his life with a different response.”
In a macro sense, Tay-K’s Santana’s World may serve as his only released “mixtape” and that he will never actually get to perform it. He’ll have the accolade of having a platinum single but not be able to reap the benefits from it. Ironically, it’s barely more than a 15-minute blip of a project with tracks such as “I <3 My Choppa,” “Murder She Wrote” and “Dat Way.” No track lasts longer than 140 seconds.
As North Texas rap continues to rise through the national ranks — in particular, the sounds of Yella Beezy, The Outfit TX, Mo3, Tay Money and others — one is led to believe that Tay-K would have arguably been slotted as the face of the scene. The area hasn’t seen anything close to it since the heights of Dorrough, DSR, Tum Tum, and Big Tuck. But now, his brief, albeit massive, moment serves as a cautionary tale that feels closer to Greek tragedy than anything else. He's currently still facing charges for the murder of a man, Mark Saldivar outside of a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in April 2017 while he was on the run from authorities.
In the blink of an eye, Tay-K rose out of seemingly nowhere to garner national attention and viral fame. But sadly, the race is over long before it even could turn into something bigger.