JAMAICA, New York -- Lionel Pickens wanted nothing more than to purchase his wife and three children their first home. To provide for his family, Pickens, a 31-year-old native of New York City’s Brooklyn borough, harnessed his passion for music and transformed it into a promising rap career in New York’s hip hop scene.
Pickens may have never achieved his dream of buying a house for his family, said the Rev. Dolleen Palmer, who eulogized Pickens at the Greater Allen A,M.E. Cathedral of New York in Queens during his funeral service Tuesday. But he still could provide comfort for his family, she said. “This place we call home is far from perfect,” Palmer said. “Lionel is now in a perfect home, where there is no sickness, sorrow, sin or death. We shall meet you in that perfect home, someday.”
Pickens, who rose to notoriety as rapper “Chinx,” formerly Chinx Drugz, was remembered during the memorial service as a hardworking family man whose smile and humor brought joy to anyone he encountered. He was killed in a drive-by shooting as he sat in the driver’s seat of a Porsche in the early morning hours of May 17 in New York City. The tragic end to his life puzzled family and friends, who said Pickens had emerged from a troubled past to become a role model to his children and a loving husband.
Pickens’ cousin, Norman Seabrook, who is also president of the New York City corrections officers’ union, told family, friends and hundreds of fans gathered for the service that it was unclear why the rapper would have been targeted. “When I spoke to the precinct [about the shooting], there was no drugs in that car. There were no guns in that car. He was doing the right things -- a time in his life where he was doing the right thing,” Seabrook said. He urged mourners to do more to prevent senseless gun violence. “This violence against each other has to stop. We’ve got to do better than this,” Seabrook said.
Mourners who lined up as far as a block away from the church before the service began were greeted by more than a dozen community members wearing black T-shirts that read: "#NoShootingNYC." One activist said the anti-gun violence campaign was launched ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend and that they had received permission from the family to wear the shirts at the service.
Inside the church, Pickens’ open casket was flanked with several bright floral arrangements. Two paintings of the rapper’s smiling face were displayed. As an overflowing crowd streamed into the church, past the family and the casket, mourners dressed in black and homemade Chinx memorial T-shirts cried and hugged each other.
“I know he’s looking down and saying thank you,” his manager, Doug Ellison, said during the service. “He was relentless in his effort to be what he wanted to be. That's the only thing helping me to get through this.”
Ellison said he and Pickens' family planned to release a mostly completed album that the rapper recorded before his death. "That's what he would have wanted," Ellison said.
Pickens began rapping when he was in middle school in the Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens. He had to put his career on hold in 2006 to serve time in prison after pleading guilty to theft and drug charges. After his release, Pickens developed ties to rapper French Montana. He made a name for himself through the "Coke Boys" and "Cocaine Riot" mixtape series with Montana and other members of the Coke Boys rap crew.
Pickens' wife, Janelli Pickens, started a fundraising campaign last week to help cover the costs of the funeral. But the campaign fell short of its $20,000 goal, sparking some backlash against Montana, who was criticized by fans on social media for not doing more to help the family financially. Montana, whose real name is Karim Kharbouch, responded to the criticism via Instagram on Monday and said the funeral costs had been covered.
Witnesses and police have said Pickens and another man were sitting in a silver Porsche around 4 a.m. on May 17 at Queens Boulevard and 84th Drive in the Briarwood neighborhood of Queens. Another car pulled up alongside the Porsche Panamera before someone in it fired multiple shots at the two men, police said. Pickens died from multiple gunshot wounds to the chest at a Queens hospital, while the another victim, 27-year-old Antar Alziadi, was critically wounded in the shooting.
Police have not said what motivated the shooting, which was barely mentioned during Tuesday's service. Sabrina Pickens, the rapper's aunt, said it was more important for people to remember how he lived than how he died. "They took more than just a rapper," she said. "They took a brother, a husband, an uncle, a nephew and a friend."