In the no-holds-barred world of Los Angles "battle rap," Brandon Fields was an up-and-comer. He was a rapper with real potential and a name to match: "Young B the Future."
The fast-rising rhymer got attention from the top. Mentored by rapper Snoop Dogg, he was on the brink of stardom. But it all came crashing down on December 8, 2014, the day a cold-blooded killer drove by his apartment in Los Angeles.
"A gray four-door vehicle pulled alongside of him and someone began shooting at him," said Los Angeles Police Homicide Detective Mark Hahn. "He was able to run to the driveway, where he collapsed."
Brandon Fields's parents raised a son who worked hard and stayed on the right path, and always with a smile.
"He had a good heart, a heart of gold," said Ray Fields, Brandon's father. "He always wanted to make sure that if you were around him that you were feeling good. He always made you laugh. Always trying to do something constructive, always ambitious to learn things."
When he was 6, the family moved out of Los Angeles to Moreno Valley 80 miles away, far from the gangs and drugs that were taking over their streets.
"The gang violence was rampant. Rampant. And they were inducting these children at an early age, elementary school, and it was just something that wasn't an option for this family," said Phyllis Fields, Brandon's mother. "I was not going to raise gang members, so I moved them out of Los Angeles."
And Brandon developed a secret love that his parents only gradually learned about: rap music.
"That's kind of strange to me because I'm a drummer-percussionist, and Brandon rapped, so long distance from that between what he did and what I did," said Ray Fields. "I never knew that he could actually rap, because he never did it around us."
But rapping was more than just a pastime for Brandon.
"We had no idea that he loved the rap culture and that he was into hip-hop until one day we came home one evening and our street, our neighborhood was full of cars, and we got there and we saw all his entourage and all of his well-wishers was there to escort him to the album-release party," said Phyllis Fields. "That's when his dad and I found out that he had produced an album and he was getting ready to release that album."
He was "Brandon" at home, but when he hit the floor for a battle rap, he was "Young B the Future." And the future was looking good.
Pretty soon he caught the ear of world-famous rapper Snoop Dogg himself, and things really heated up.
"When I spoke to Snoop personally, he told me that he was very interested in him, and he also said that as a young kid with his ambition and goals, he reminded him of himself," said Phyllis. "It was like they had known each other forever. He was really, really working with Brandon. He loved Brandon so much after the little short time that he met him."
Snoop invited Brandon to compete in his "Gladiator School" showcase against a seasoned competitor named B Magic. But the newcomer made a little magic himself. Brandon won the battle and basked in the limelight.
"Everything you get that comes with success, no matter what level of it you get, you know, the friends who come out of nowhere who you ain't talked to in 10 years, the girl who didn't want to date you in high school. This and that, I'm getting all that right now, and I'm loving it," Brandon said in an interview.
But Brandon's growing fame never went to his head. He worked a steady desk job at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in South Central Los Angeles, where he had an apartment. He drove two hours back to Moreno Valley every weekend to be with his family.
"Outside of his career, outside of his goals, he was our inspiration," said Phyllis. "He gave us hope. Because of his confidence, because of his shine, because of his character. He would put a smile on your face."
But for the entire Fields family, the dream came to a tragic end on the afternoon of December 8, 2014.
Brandon had left work at the hospital for the day, but he was back within the hour, this time in an ambulance, cut down in drive-by shooting moments after parking his car and heading into his apartment.
"The young lady on the end of the phone said 'Brandon's been shot,' and I just tossed my phone to one of my co-workers and I said 'I gotta go,'" said Phylllis. "The first thing I said to the doctor, 'Just tell me, did he make it?' And she says, 'I'm sorry, we couldn't save him. He didn't make it.' So I just walked away. They wanted to sit and tell me what happened. I just didn't want to hear any more at that point."
"My wife calls me back and she said 'Brandon's gone,'" said Ray. "And that right there when I heard that, I just lost it. My baby is gone. He's gone. Why? I don't know. And I'm looking for answers and I can't find answers nowhere. To have a child like that, a child that is going to be somebody, man. And it was just so devastating. So devastating."
The world of Los Angeles battle rap is stunned by the drive-by killing of one of its most promising talents. Brandon Fields was cut down at the age of 26 while walking into his apartment in South Central L.A.
Brandon's mentor Snoop Dogg paid for his funeral and spoke at the ceremony.
Now police stay hard at the job trying to find out who killed Brandon Fields.
To some, the battle rap scene itself seems like a place to look for suspects, but investigators say it doesn't check out.
"The language is very aggressive, it sounds like very angry language," said Hahn. "But they shake hands, they're friends, they're long-term friends. They show up at the same events all the time. And it's our understanding most of the time they do not hold grudges."
According to police, Brandon had parked about 40 feet from his apartment and was walking west on 118th Street between San Pedro Street and Avalon Boulevard shortly after 3:30 p.m. on Monday, December 8, 2014, when he was cut down in his driveway by several bullets fired from a gray four-door vehicle following close behind him.
There's a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Police say there were likely many witnesses in the broad-daylight killing.
"Brandon wasn't doing anything to cause anyone to shoot at him," said LAPD Homicide Detective Roger Fontes. "The fact that a car doing a drive-by, one scenario could be that he was misidentified."
Police say the block is a contested area between rival gangs in South Central: the 118th Street Crips and the Bloods. And the graffiti at the exact spot where Brandon's car was parked might tell some of the tale.
"The relevancy of gang graffiti: One, it gives us sometimes a motive as to who may be involved," said Fontes. "Sometimes it actually describes the actual person who was directly involved.
"He just simply wasn't a gang member," said Fontes. "He was simply someone doing the right thing. He was coming home from work."
Brandon earned the respect of his fans, and from these veteran cops too.
"I think he would have went very far," said Det. Hahn. "I think he would have been a household name. We would have known who Brandon was, we would have definitely known. If you go and watch any of his Youtube battle raps, and aside from the egregious language, look at the smile on his face, look at the spark in his eye and you know this was an intelligent go-getter. That's who Brandon was."
He left a lot of his fans wishing they had more of Young B the Future. But he also left them some of his own thoughts on the deeper questions of life after death. The song itself is called "Life."
"But don't be crying for the kid, 'cause even though I died, I never felt more alive. It feels like I'm flying. I'm a keep on dying till I find it," Brandon raps on the song.
And his family says that life will only get better once his killer is off the streets and justice for Brandon is done.
"To the persons that may have seen or heard something: Please come forward," said Phyllis Fields. "It is time to take back your community. This is where you live, this is what you love to do. We can stop this together."
And at least two detectives are looking forward to a special visit with Brandon's family.
"That day is going to come when we walk up to their home, knock on the door, sit down and we tell them we made an arrest," said Fontes. "Yes, that day is going to come. Nothing is going to stop us."