Dex Osama’s shadow looms large over Detroit’s current wave of successful hip-hop artists. As a whole, Detroit’s hip-hop energy is as viable now as it's ever been. There’s no doubt Dex Osama would be at the forefront of Detroit’s trap scene alongside Tee Grizzley, Icewear Vezzo, AllStar JR, and 42 Dugg (just to name a few). Born Byron Cox, the 21 year-old emcee’s career was cut short when he was tragically murdered on Sept. 2, 2015 during an altercation at a local gentlemen’s club.
A new film titled Death on Me: The Story of Dex Osama sheds new light and perspective on his life outside the rhymes.
“I’m not going to say I’m the biggest hip-hop fan, but I do love the music,” says Jack DeCerchio, one of the film’s producers. “What really drove me personally was the life story of Dex.”
The film is the brainchild of DeCerchio and his two cousins Spencer King (director), and Cooper Sellers-Wilkinson (cinematographer). “Spencer is the real, real hip-hop fan,” DeCerchio says. “We all have film experience but this is our first indie project we drove ourselves to make.”
With songs “Death On Me,” “Ready or Not,” and “Clean Up Man,” Cox built a following with charismatic and entertaining narratives taken right from his own life story. His songs could be morbid and unabashedly violent, but extremely authentic.
“People will generally see a side of Dex they haven’t seen before,” says DeCerchio. “People that listen to Dex’s music will say — especially if you’re not really into hip-hop — this is just about guns and drugs. But in the film you really start to see that it's coming from a dark place and that Dex had a very hard upbringing. His two uncles were both murdered and he saw all kinds of things on a daily basis. … So you kinda see what made these rhymes and the documentary shows how his life affected his music.”
The documentary starts with Cox’s pastor, Austime Mitchel Jr., sharing an intimate conversation he had with a tearful Dex shortly before his death where he tried to convince the young emcee to walk away from the trappings of street life. “I said Dex, if in the next two minutes if you can give your life to the Lord, God will forgive you for whatever you have done,” he says in the film. “He said, ‘preacher I hear what you’re saying. I just can’t walk away from my street reputation.’”
Cox’s friend Mitch tells the story of introducing Cox’s music to Philly superstar emcee Meek Mill. “I played it on my phone, YouTube, and he (Meek Mill) like played it over three or four times. He was liking it,” Mitch says in the documentary. “We was up for like six or seven hours listening to Dex.” The impromptu listening session led to an invitation for Cox to join Mill’s Dream Chaser record label. But Cox’s life ended before a full project from Dream Chasers ever came to fruition.
The documentary is also full of photos and videos that fans have never seen before. “We were able to get childhood photos, videos of Dex in the studio that most people had not seen,” DeCerchio says. “Everyone in his circle came together to help us make this documentary.”
Some of the most refreshing stories come from Cox’s mother Queen Pfeifer and his grandmother, Patricia, referred to him as a big teddy bear. “His mother was huge in helping organize this,” DeCerchio says. “She’s an unbelievably strong woman.”
Though the film is only 30 minutes, it packs a powerful punch and fills in a lot of blanks for people who were only loosely familiar with Cox. The “what if” sentiments are inescapable in the film. Cox was feared, loved, unquestionably talented, and genuine down to his last rhyme. “I will go out on a limb and call him the Biggie of Detroit,” DeCerchio says. “You can go on YouTube and see that his videos have 2 and 3 million views. People loved him and he spoke to people that came from the same place he came from.”
DeCerchio and his team had their eyes on film festivals and premiere parties but the coronavirus pandemic snuffed most of those plans. “A lot of his fans are excited to see it but in the future when COVID is over,” he says. “We want to host a big premiere.” He says he plans to do a Q&A with Cox’s mother and other people who were a part of the documentary.
You can watch the doc below.
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