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Octavis Berry

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Local rapper Octavis Berry, who performed as "Esbe the 6th St. Bully" in the groups Dred Skott and League of Extraordinary Gz, died of a pulmonary embolism in Austin on Friday. He was 30.

Described by friends as a passionate wordsmith who carried a notebook with him continually since his teens, the Lanier High School graduate first began to make noise on the local hip-hop scene in 2003 as half of the duo Dred Skott, alongside singer/producer Reggie Coby.

"He was a good guy. A passionate and compassionate individual," Coby said. "We had a song on the 'Dred Skott For President' album about suicide, and I remember that conversation about how somebody's going to need this. So many people have told me how that song affected them."

Notable for Berry's sharp-witted, rapid-fire street rhymes laid over gritty beats drizzled with syrupy Southern soul, the group performed at Austin venues including the 311 club and the Victory Grill.

Over the next several years, Dred Skott became well-established in a tight-knit hip-hop community . At a party in 2008, Berry proposed recording a mix tape with like-minded Austin hip-hop crews Da C.O.D. and Southbound. They would call themselves The League of Extraordinary Gz, he joked. From that first mix tape, League grew into an eight-man collective .

Within that group, Berry's aspirations began to take off. Shortly after releasing the mix tape, the group landed a spot on the Texas hip-hop showcase at South by Southwest 2009, sharing a bill with Houston heavyweights Paul Wall and Chamillionaire.

In May 2011, following another successful SXSW appearance, League hit the road on a two-month tour of the western United States with Alabama rapper Jackie Chain. By the end of the summer, they had joined the stridently political New York-based rap crew Dead Prez and had been invited to perform at the influential AC3 hip-hop festival in Atlanta.

Berry's health problems began while touring with Dead Prez in August . He complained of shortness of breath and a racing heart and was treated for bronchitis and asthma , Coby said.

On Thursday, Berry stopped by the emergency room at University Medical Center Brackenridge and was discharged. He later collapsed while walking back to his home in East Austin, Coby said . The hospital contacted his mother on Saturday morning to say he had died.

Berry leaves behind four children ages 13, 11, 10 and 8. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Friday at David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, 2211 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Friends plan to gather for a memorial from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Victory Grill, 1104 E. 11th St.
Published in Austin American-Statesman on Oct. 19, 2011
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