The father of 23 Rackz, a rising DMV rapper who was fatally shot last week, says he spent years trying to get his teenage son back on the right path.

“Nobody could get him to stay off the streets,” Michael Johnson told FOX 5 about the late 16-year-old. “I’d go to work, and he’d be gone when I come home. So we had a relationship of me trying to get him off the streets and him thinking, once he got money off his hands, he was gone. And as far as guns on the street, he had been arrested one time for a gun, but D.C. won’t hold those kids. I begged the judges, P.O., keep him. Just keep him. But the next day, he was home. It’s so easy for these kids to get guns, it really is.”

23 Rackz, born Justin Johnson, was reportedly gunned down last Thursday in Southeast Washington, D.C. His family says the up-and-coming MC was shot shortly after posting his location on Instagram. Police have yet to make any arrests in connection to the incident. Authorities are reportedly offering D.C. Police a $25,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to conviction of the attacker(s).

23 Rackz signed with MGE in 2020 and released his debut album, Rookie of the Year, in 2021. He has since received co-signs from hip-hop figures like Akademiks and fellow DMV artist Wale, who paid tribute to slain teen via Twitter.

23 Rackz’s manager also mourned the loss in an Instagram post, in which he vowed to keep the rapper’s legacy alive.

“I saw myself in you so much,” he captioned a video of 23 Rackz signing his contract. “You wasn’t just that regular 16 year old kid, you was different, you was ahead of your time, and I knew you was going be a star one day .. Ima keep your name alive 4eva babyboy until they put me in da ground.”

23 Rackz’s family remembered the teen, not as a burgeoning rapper, but as an exceptional student who got straight A’s, made the honor roll, and received scholarship offers to DMV-area private school.

“It’s hard to see on social media that you know, he’s really gone and I see a lot of comments on social media saying like, ‘Oh well he was in the streets at 16 and he didn’t go to school, and this and that,’” his older sister, Jamesa Hall, said. “He was an honor roll student. They skipped him a grade. Like he was street smart and book smart. He was well before his time. A lot of people have different perceptions of him, but at the end of the day, with us at home, he was just a regular 16-year-old. It was never 23 Rackz in the house.”

Fans, friends, and family will pay tribute to 23 Rackz with a candlelight vigil this Friday.