Turk - Biography
By Eric Brightwell
As a member of The Hot Boys, Turk (born Tab Virgil Jr.) was easily the most obscure of the four. After mostly being featured in cameos, he was late to launch a solo career. While the rest of the Hot Boys capitalized on their fame, Turk’s career seemed to be stalled. Then, in a botched drug raid in Memphis that turned into a shootout, his career was effectively put on ice when he ended up serving time for popping a cop.
Born in 1981, Tab Virgil Jr. was raised, along with his younger brother, by his single mother in New Orleans’s treacherous Magnolia housing projects – also home at the time to rappers Juvenile, Soulja Slim and 6-Shot. As a 14 year old, he started using dope, which he quickly became addicted to. His struggles with it would negatively impact his life in ways he probably never imagined for years to come. After he began rapping, he caught the ear of another Magnolia resident, Shaliene Muhammad, better known as the bounce rapper, Magnolia Shorty. As an artist on the then fledgling Cash Money label, she introduced her discovery to the label’s founders, Baby and Slim. Suitably impressed, they signed the 16 year old to their label.
His style, which focused far more on mellifluous flow and style than lyrical substance, was often compared to that of his label mate Lil Wayne but, in fact, sounded remarkably like one of Cash Money’s earliest artists off Apple and Eagle, Hollygrove’s Lil Slim. Virgil made his recording debut as “Young Turk” in 1996 on “Hide Out or Ride Out” on Juvenile’s seminal Solja Rags.
The following year, the Hot Boys were assembled and grew, at least regionally, massively successful. While his bandmates B.G., Juvenile and Lil Wayne successfully capitalized on the exposure the regionally successful group provided, Turk stuck to cameos on other CMR artists’ releases (in addition to his two albums as a Hot Boy). In 2000 he appeared in the film, Baller Blockin’ as a dope dealer in Magnolia named “Teke” which hardly required him to stretch.
It wasn’t until 2001 that he released a solo album, Young & Thuggin' (Cash Money). Turk attributed his lackadaisical approach to his music career to shyness. In fact, he’d struggled with his drug addiction and served a seven month sentence for felony drug and fraud charges. Although the album features some of Mannie Fresh’s best production, Turk’s incredibly limited lyrical lexicon revealed a rapper with little to say, but a sleek and engaging way of saying it. That same year, he and Mannie Fresh again recorded an album, Untamed Guerilla (Cash Money). But when Turk followed B.G. and Juvenile in departing the label, its release was withheld.
In October of 2003, Raw & Uncut (Koch) was released. Mostly produced by Ke’Noe (formerly of Beats by the Pound), it revealed Turk mostly mining the same vein as its predecessor, but it lacks Mannie Fresh’s Midas touch. When Turk moved to Memphis, he met Erica McClain, another rapper/ex-con who goes by Emani Da Made Woman. The two began dating shortly after. Later in the year he began working on what would be Penitentiary Chances (2004-Koch). A short record, it was nonetheless a big improvement over Raw & Uncut, with improved production and increasing introspection and positivity that seemed to reflect a changing outlook for Turk.
In January of 2004, however, all that changed. Officers were given a tip that an apartment rented by McClain housed a large number of assault weapons and brown. What happened next is contested but what is known is that, around 2:00pm, a group of plain-clothes narcotic officers (accompanied by a masked SWAT team) busted into McClain’s Hickory Hill apartment. After securing Sean Jackson (a visitor who was in the living room) an officer asked if anyone else was present and how many. Jackson replied that there were two people in the bedroom. Fearing he was being robbed, Turk ran to the closet and McClain dove under the bed. The cops bust into the room and 189 shots were fired. One deputy was hit four times. A SWAT officer was shot in the neck. After the officers retreated to reload, Turk dove under the bed to check on his girlfriend. When the officers heard McClain’s voice they issued the order for the two to exit with their hands visible. The two crawled out of the room and Turk was arrested. In a search, the officers supposedly found two spoons with dope residue, six 9mm shell casings and a 9mm. They didn’t find any of the assault weapons that their warrant was for.
When Penitentiary Chances was released in April, Turk was awaiting trial. He was charged with two counts of attempted murder. One charge was dropped when ballistics proved that the SWAT officer had been definitely been shot by a fellow cop in the chaos. Flight, drug possession and gun possession were all violations of his probation. Sean Jackson, a key witness, disappeared before the trial. In August, after a seven day trial, Turk (in and Alfrod or “best interest” plea) pled guilty to second degree attempted murder in order to avoid a potentially longer stint for first degree. He’s currently serving a ten year sentence, reduced from twelve.
In prison, Turk entered a 500 hour drug program and reports that he’s been clean since 2004. The deputy that was shot sued Turk and he was ordered to pay $10 million. Still a Hot Boy (2005-Select-O-Hits) and Convicted Felons (2006-Laboratory) were released whilst Turk remains in jail. Padded with guest rappers, they amount to little more than Turk tributes or Ke’Noe solo recordings, especially the latter release. In 2008, The Hot Boys, minus Turk, re-united to record a couple of songs. Turk has announced his intention, upon release, of returning to Cash Money. It’s continually said that Turk’s going to be released soon, but so far he’s still in the Shelby County Jail, composing raps and waiting to get out.