Tomorrow, Thursday, January 8, Philadelphia golden-age rapper Cool C — real name Christopher Roney — is set to be executed by lethal injection, the result of his 1996 conviction on charges of first-degree murder for the shooting death of Police Officer Lauretha Vaird. The shooting occurred in January of that year, when Roney, then 26, and two other men attempted to rob a Philadelphia PNC Bank branch. Roney shot Vaird, a 43-year-old mother of two, as soon as she stepped through the bank’s entrance, making her the first officer killed responding to a call in the city’s history.
Cool C, considered a pioneer of the Philadelphia rap scene, emerged at a time when hip-hop was overwhelmingly, almost exclusively, found in New York. With the rap world at large focused on the five boroughs, the mid Eighties were a time when one of the quickest ways to achieve notoriety was to record a dis song targeted at the popular artists of the day.
Cool C did just that with his 1987 debut single, “Juice Crew Dis.” Amid the infamous South Bronx vs. Queens feud, Cool C represented Philly’s issue with Juice Crew member and Queens resident MC Shan having allegedly turned his back on the Philly scene that gave him his start. Cool C had a style similar to Shan’s, which made his reworking of some of Shan’s signature lines as disses toward him and Juice Crew members Roxanne Shante and Marley Marl stand out in one of rap’s most battle-heavy climates.
Stepping up to Shan made Cool C a hometown hero and garnered the attention of increasingly prominent rap labels. The next year, City Beat, the label that also originally released Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two” and Ultramagnetic MC’s “Traveling at the Speed of Thought,” put out Cool C’s next single, “C Is Cool.” That and C’s self-released follow-up, “Down to the Grissel,” were successful enough to land C a deal with Atlantic Records. In 1989 Atlantic released C’s debut album, I Gotta Habit, boasting his signature single “Glamorous Life,” whose suave boasts and featured females (including a young Jill Scott) landed the video regular rotation in rap outlets.
After one more album, Life in the Ghetto, Cool C formed the group C.E.B. (Countin’ Endless Bank) with fellow Philly natives and longtime associates Steady B and DJ Ultimate Eaze. Landing a deal with Ruffhouse Records, they released their self-titled debut in 1993.