Before he became a suspected serial killer, Cleophus Cooksey was trying to break out as a rapper.
Two years ago, Cooksey, who has been linked to nine killings over three weeks in the Phoenix metro area, was making YouTube videos of himself rapping and recording tracks under the moniker King Playbola.
Many lyrics by Cooksey, aka King Playbola, are violent, and some reference murder
Such language is part of the genre, said his producer, adding Cooksey didn't scare him
"I chopped at the rest of 'em / Murdered all the best of 'em / Nothing left of 'em / Azilla be the best to come," Cooksey rhymes in a 2015 YouTube video titled "Azilla Hop," an apparent nod to his home state of Arizona.
Cooksey, 35, was arrested last month in the December 17 deaths of his mother and his stepfather. After he was in custody, police linked him to seven unsolved murders in the Phoenix area that happened over three weeks late last year.
Cooksey was indicted last month on two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the December 17 killings, online court records show. More charges are expected within a few weeks, the prosecutor's spokeswoman said. The public defender listed as Cooksey's lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment.
Cooksey denied knowledge of the murders of his mother and stepfather and later denied knowing the other victims or knowing how they died, according to police records posted at azcentral.com, the site affiliated with The Arizona Republic.
'I'm a monster'
Cooksey doesn't appear to have had much of a fan base as King Playbola, but his old videos are garnering new attention. Users seem to have found his videos after police announced he was a suspect in the killings, and virtually all the comments on his videos are negative.
"Murder's just a profit sh*t / Rap is such a lawful gig / We above the law and sh*t / Plugged until God appear," Cooksey raps on a song titled "Monster."
The hook, in light of murder allegations, is perhaps most chilling.
"Motherf*****, I'm a monster."
In another track titled "Famous," Cooksey references his criminal past while addressing a woman who he says is looking for fame.
"Crime fame / I only had crime fame," he raps. "She feel the rain from my crime name / Hoping one day she can be famous."
In 2001, when Cooksey was 18, he was imprisoned in Maricopa County on armed robbery and manslaughter convictions, online records show.
Police say he served 16 years, and he racked up 22 disciplinary infractions while in prison, including drug possession/manufacturing, fighting, disorderly conduct and assault on staff, records show.
Producer: Violent lyrics didn't bother me
Some rappers, like other entertainers, invoke violent themes in their music that aren't meant to be taken literally. A facet of the genre has historically been an outlet for artists to express aggression and frustration brought on by poverty, racism, drug addiction, mass incarceration and other societal ills.
A producer who worked with Cooksey said he never gave much thought to the violent lyrics.
Jeremy Daniel, owner of Cosmic Soup Recording, said he would often record with Cooksey in the studio for an hour or two at a time, then give him a ride home. Daniel said he has recorded other rappers who have similar lyrical themes and that he considered those a part of the genre.
Cooksey once mentioned to Daniel that he had dealt drugs in the past, but Cooksey seemed to have put that behind him and was trying to pursue a positive path in life, the producer said.
"He struck me as serious about music," Daniel said. "I never felt my life was in danger."
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