NEW YORK • Few, if any, independent viral hits have the knotty back story of The Race, one of the fastest-growing songs of the moment, by 17-year-old Texas rapper Tay-K (or Tay-K 47, born Taymor McIntyre).
Released online on June 30, the same day Tay-K was arrested by United States marshals in New Jersey after three months on the run, The Race has captivated the hip-hop world with its blurring of life and art.
Wanted for a capital murder charge and in connection with other violent crimes, the rapper can be seen in the video flashing handguns and posing next to a wanted poster bearing his own face.
"I was tryna beat a case/but I ain't beat that case," he raps, "I did the race."
As the tale of Tay-K recording a song about being on the run while actually on the run continues to spread on blogs and social media, The Race has started to enter the mainstream, debuting at No. 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart last week and reaching No. 52 this week with 13 million streams.
Rappers, including Meek Mill, Desiigner, Lil Yachty, Kodak Black and Travis Scott, have supported the song's word-of-mouth rise on Twitter and Instagram, posting clips of the track or its lyrics and sharing the #FREETAYK hashtag.
With its video surpassing 26 million views, The Race, barely two minutes long, has also hit No. 2 on the SoundCloud chart and sits near the top of Spotify's Viral 50 and Most Necessary playlists.
Ms Laura Dale, a deputy US marshal in Dallas, said Tay-K absconded from house arrest in late March, just before a court hearing in Tarrant County, Texas, in which a judge was to decide whether he would be tried for murder as an adult.
Mr Trent Loftin, a lawyer for the rapper, confirmed that his client had been charged, along with six others, in connection with a home invasion that left a 21-year-old man dead in July last year, when Tay-K was 16.
On March 27, Tay-K wrote derisively about his house arrest in a tweet, adding "they gn hav 2 catch me". The US Marshals Service soon marked him a "violent fugitive".
Ezra Averill, 16, who met Tay-K as a high school freshman in Arlington, Texas, and works as his manager, said in an interview that in the weeks that followed, he would receive new music from Tay-K, including The Race, sent from random e-mail addresses. A video for the track was shot in late May, according to social media posts from the directors, as Internet buzz around the rapper grew.
"We hadn't planned on dropping The Race for a while," Averill said, "but when I saw that he was blowing up on Twitter, I was like, I just have to drop this."
On June 30, the video had its premiere on the popular YouTube channel for Buffet Boys, a Los Angeles-via-Miami rap collective. That same night, the Marshals Service announced that it had arrested Tay-K.
He was extradited to Tarrant County and eventually moved to an adult jail.
While Averill acknowledged that the song's real-world story had brought the hype "to a crescendo", he stressed that Tay-K is "a professional artist - everything's entertainment".