In The Autobiography of Gucci Mane, the Atlanta rap star details his numerous stints in DeKalb County Jail and how they bolstered his street cred. When the Bay Area's Mac Dre was locked up for conspiracy to commit robbery in 1992, he recorded an album over the jail phone that became legendary. This past year, Brooklyn rapper 6ix9ine's various legal troubles—including a guilty plea for a child sex crime, and an arrest for firearms—propelled him into the Billboard Hot 100 and brought collaborations with Kanye West and Nicki Minaj.
But the reaction was noticeably different when Oakland rapper Qing Qi (Nikia Durgin) was booked in Nevada County Jail last week for an alleged burglary and high-speed getaway chase from police.
According to police, Qing Qi sped off at 120 miles per hour with her headlights off after officers stopped her on suspicion of burglarizing a CVS in Grass Valley. She nearly got away, but crashed in nearby Auburn, and was caught attempting to hail an Uber back to Oakland. The Union reported that officers found several thousand dollars of hair-care products and makeup in her car.
Qing Qi now faces two felony counts of second-degree burglary, one felony count of evading a peace officer and one misdemeanor count of obstructing a peace officer. Pending sentencing, she could spend up to nine years in jail.
All of which would ordinarily mean, by the rap rulebook, a surge in a rapper's career. Except when Qing Qi's mugshot appeared on the homepage of KRON4 on Nov. 17 and spread through Bay Area social media, the local rap community didn't celebrate her outlaw status. Nor was there the type of sympathy that's usually expressed for male rappers who get caught and put behind bars. Instead, the majority of the comments took jabs at Qing Qi's hair and weight.
Reactions escalated when Sacramento rapper Mozzy, who has over 828,000 Instagram followers (and, ironically, is Qing Qi's labelmate on San Francisco imprint Empire), posted her and her alleged accomplice's mugshots with the caption "Lil petty thievery n thingz" and numerous laugh-cry emojis. (The post has since been deleted.)
Following Mozzy's lead, his followers responded with taunts, many commenting that she deserved arrest after dissing Sacramento during her time as co-host of Thizzler's YouTube talk show, That's My Word. (While debating whether Sacramento is culturally part of the Bay Area, Qing Qi quipped that "Sacramento people are weird," to which her co-host DNas replied, "They're 2005 Oakland," implying that Sacramento is behind the times.)
Mozzy's manager, DavO, told KQED through a publicist that Mozzy was trying to make a point. “He just wanted to show people how things can quickly turn around for you,” he wrote in an email, adding that Mozzy had planned to post Qing Qi's bond, "just to show you that the same people who you put down, that you do not know from a can of paint, can be the same ones that you may need later in life. He deleted [his post] because he didn’t want to humiliate her." (Qing Qi's rap crew, Pu Tang Clan, posted her bond before Mozzy had the opportunity.)
Still, regardless of Mozzy's intentions, his Instagram post provided a springboard for thousands of followers to mock Qing Qi's misfortune and appearance. Other prominent Bay Area artists, including Kamaiyah, Nef the Pharaoh and P-Lo, appeared to laugh along in the comments.
Such response was markedly different than the hero worship lavished on Los Angeles rapper 03 Greedo, for example, when he was sentenced to 20 years for trafficking meth this summer. Other than the other female rappers in Qing Qi's Pu Tang Clan, few people stuck their necks out to defend her.
Reached by phone, Qing Qi's Thizzler co-host DNas addressed the double standard.
"If anything happens to anybody else, we ain’t makin’ these jokes," he said, adding that he himself hasn't gotten nearly as much backlash for his Sacramento comments as Qing Qi. "I’m supporting Qi."
In a phone interview a week after her arrest, Qi acknowledged that, as an outspoken woman who is far from the narrow, socially acceptable mold of what a female rapper should be, her charges were received differently.
"For some reason, people are really upset by me. There are so many people, rappers, who have mugshots for bipping," Qing Qi told me, using a slang term for breaking car windows. "But when I do something, they put it everywhere and everybody has to talk about it."
Indeed, Qing Qi does rub some people the wrong way. She's a single mom who raps about her sexuality, she's full-figured and wears lingerie with her belly out, she often wears an afro, and she's brashly outspoken about gender inequality in her music. Her 2018 mixtape ITNASPTFHB calls out male entitlement with hilarious punchlines that undoubtedly bruise some men's egos.
In other words, if you're a man with any amount of insecurity, she's easy to hate.
"I think I’m very scary. If what I’m trying to do, and the music I’m trying to push and the image I’m trying to push is successful, I think it would bother a lot of people because it would change things drastically," Qing Qi told me. "Because then you wouldn’t have to be skinny to show your stomach in a music video, or wear a lot of makeup, or get a long-ass weave to go to an interview."
Qing Qi's court case is ongoing, and at press time, her public defender Tamara Zaromskis wasn't sure when the case would go to trial—only that her plea, entered Thursday, would not be a guilty plea. But Qing Qi is optimistic. Upon her release, she put out a diss track called "Tangy" to the beat of Kelis' "Bossy": "I got way too much shit goin' on to be concerned with you weird internet thugs," she raps.
As she summed it up in our interview: "It seems like controversy is my biggest ally."
Correction: This article originally attributed the quote from Mozzy's manager DavO to his publicist Aishah White, who passed along the information.