Moments after gunshots roared through the 7th Ward on Sunday night, a lone snapshot appeared on the Internet.
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In it, a 22-year-old man is lying cheek to the ground, crimson pooling around his neck. His eyes are closed, his torso curled.
Chaos explodes around him, with the arms of others pressed to the back of his head. And someone is holding a cell phone just inches from his face.
This is how the world learned of Messy Mya"s death.
The local rapper and comedian, whose insulting videos made him an online sensation, died Sunday about 8 p.m. near the corner of St. Anthony and North Rocheblave streets.
He was born Anthony M. Barre, the grandson of imprisoned businessman and political powerbroker Stan "Pampy" Barre. He died Sunday night face-down on the ground, where his body was found by police and paramedics, authorities said. He had been shot several times, according to the coroner"s office.
In death, Barre, or at least his persona, Messy Mya, went viral. Radio disc jockeys bemoaned his death on air, while the number of clicks on his already popular YouTube page climbed exponentially. His moniker became a top trending subject on Twitter. Meanwhile, tribute videos and blog postings sprouted almost immediately.
The burgeoning bounce rapper and Internet personality who sought out fame was now in the headlines, but for all the wrong reasons.
What remained clear Monday, even before authorities confirmed Barre"s identity, was that, within moments of the gunshots, numerous people knew what had happened and knew to whom. It was not clear, however, who loaded the crime-scene photo on to the Internet or why.
A desolate scene
On Monday, New Orleans police declined to release additional details, such as a possible motive or suspect in the shooting.
The scene had been cleared by Monday afternoon of any remnants of the night before. In the block where the shooting supposedly happened, none of the homes appear inhabited.
Roosters strutted down the street and a stray dog meandered through trash strewn along the sidewalk of the neighborhood"s blighted blocks. Nearby residents said the killing took place amid a block party, but said they knew few details beyond that.
Outside of the Web, beyond cameras and keyboards, Barre was a young man with a well-known last name and a sad past.
At the age of 13, his mother"s boyfriend fatally shot her while he and his older sister were in the house. The two children were the ones who summoned police. Years later, his grandfather, Stan "Pampy" Barre, was convicted in a City Hall kickback scheme, for which he is currently in prison.
Despite the personal troubles, the young Barre blossomed as Messy Mya.
Barre performed tunes in some of his popular videos, while other clips featured him talking into the camera and to the world. As a performer, he melded music and comedy.
Bounce music -- characterized by its repetitive, call-and-response chants that often reference New Orleans neighborhoods and public housing complexes -- leans heavily on sexual innuendo and swagger. Its rappers are often accompanied by dancers whose rapid-fire, rear-end gyrations make it appear as if their hips are disconnected from their torsos.
"Follow me, camera!"
Sassy, raspy-voiced and heavily tattooed, with flowing hair in fluorescent colors, Barre demanded attention, often looking into the lens, imploring, "Follow me, camera!"
In several clips, he cavorts through Lakeside Shopping Center, critiquing the backsides of passers-by, criticizing the looks of the elderly, and accosting young women.
"If you are 50 years old and you still wear braids, b----, you need to be shot," he exclaims in one video.
In other clips, Barre rattles of the names of people he dislikes and the reasons why.
"This is my reality show," he says in one video. "Welcome to Messy world."
In recent online video posts, Barre"s outlook was relatively glum. He hinted that death was around the corner, noting that a young man"s life expectancy in New Orleans is short.
He talked of getting jumped and of other "minor situations" that arose from his charades. He knew his character assassinations created enemies.
His catchphrase -- "Now who gonna pop me?" -- was more than a rhetorical question. In recent days, it took on a grave tone.
On Sunday, at 1 p.m., just hours before his death, Barre paid homage in a Facebook posting to a recently deceased friend, saying: "I"ll be there soon."
A day earlier, he told the world that he planned to leave New Orleans for Houston because "s--t is getting out the box."
On Sunday afternoon, Barre apparently attended a girlfriend"s baby shower. He had proudly announced the midday event in several online postings. He declared he would soon be the father of a baby boy. It is not known if the Sunday night gathering was tied to a baby shower.
"I am like the popular-est person down here"
Amid the laughs, mean-spirited cracks and rump-rattling videos, Barre exhibited a keen sense of self-promotion and awareness of what Messy Mya had, and could, become.
In an open video to fans, he expresses gratitude to all those who click and comment and send notes and e-mail messages.
"I am like the popular-est person down here," he deadpans in a confessional to the camera. "I came from uploading and getting 25 views to uploading and getting 25,000."
Quickly, he switches from heartfelt to humorous, and back to serious.
"I am the Sally-Ann Roberts of the streets, you know, b---h?" he said, a reference to WWL-TV"s morning television anchor. "You know everybody watch this camera. You got to understand how powerful this camera is. Understand your words on this camera. Understand that people not only from New Orleans is watching this video, b---h, they got people from Milwaukee."
Staff writer Keith Spera contributed to this report. Brendan McCarthy can be reached at bmccarthy
timespicayune.com or 504.826.3301.
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