Korttney Elliott was working to live out her dream of becoming a performer. Elliott raps under the moniker Ella Ann with partner Jenice “Sabi” Portlock in the Bangz. Over the summer the L.A. natives had started to bubble with “Boys With Tattoos (We Jerkin).” The two not only were adding a unique style to a seriously dilapidated playing field of female MCs who get exposure, but they were also adding onto the blistering jerk movement that had been brought to the mainstream’s attention by the New Boyz.
DJ Felli Fel had the song in heavy rotation at Los Angeles radio station Power 106, and the ladies were starting to go in heavy on the shows and get the attention of the press.
But, as Sabi tells it, “the world stopped” on September 14. Elliott was sitting in her Mercedes-Benz, driving around town with a male friend, when she was hit in the neck by a stray bullet.
“I honestly didn’t think it was that bad,” Sabi said Tuesday on the set of the Bangz’s new video, “Found My Swag,” in L.A. “Ella parties a lot, so I was thinking, ‘Maybe she was out and about.’ She caught a stray bullet. I didn’t think it was gonna be as serious as it was.”
Sabi says she got a call around 2 a.m. from her boyfriend, who told her that her partner was in the hospital. She grossly underestimated the serious nature of Ella’s injury.
“When we got to the hospital, I remember walking through the emergency room,” Sabi said. “I didn’t know what to expect. When I saw the face of her stepfather and her mother, I knew it was something very serious. I immediately started crying. I said, ‘Please tell me she’s not … ‘ I thought the worst happened. They thought the worst happened. [The doctors] said she was practically brain-dead basically. Then they found some brain activity and it was a little shine of light. It was a roller-coaster situation. Then they got her somewhat stabilized, but she was in such a critical condition. It was a really awkward, stressful, shocking situation. The whole world just stopped.”
Ella had to have three surgeries in the wake of her shooting. She was unconscious for almost a month.
“It was scary for our family, but we have God in our heart,” Ella’s mother said. “When you’re in that position, you pull on your faith. Once we got over the initial shock, we knew she would be OK.”
The family’s prayers were answered. Ella came out of her coma, and although she still can’t speak or walk, she is very responsive. Now Ella watches “Gossip Girl” and can even unbraid her own hair again.
“She’s doing good,” Sabi said. “The fight is in her to get better. She’s such a rock-and-roll chic. This is not gonna slow her down at all. She’s been getting physical therapy, speech therapy to get her back to where she was. The doctors say they expect a full recovery as long as she fights to get better. She has to push through these therapy sessions because it’s really hard for her. When she got injured, she was unconscious for three weeks. Now she’s fighting to get her mobility back. But she was aware. As soon as she opened her eyes three weeks later, she was aware.”
“She looks in my eyes like, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll be back,’ ” Ella’s mom said. “She throws up the peace sign. Every day is a good day. I remember the doctors looking like, ‘We don’t know.’ [But] she has such a fight in her. She’s a tough woman. I think people have to understand that when you’re young people, the violence can strike anyone. You have to be aware of your surroundings and the people you’re friends with. Just be more aware.”
Ella’s mom says that the overwhelming amount of get-well wishes and other positive messages have greatly helped the young rapper’s recovery. Ella is still a long way from performing or even recording again, but the group will continue.
Their next single, “Found My Swag,” is a collaboration between the duo and their jerkin’ brethren, the New Boyz. Ella was supposed to lay her vocals for the record the night she was shot but never made it to the studio.
“We was doing a song the day of the incident. Our Twitters was blowing up, ‘Did you hear about Ella?’ ” Ben J of the Boyz said on the video set.
“Our phone started blowing up, ‘Something happened to Ella. Something happened to Ella,’ ” Legacy remembered. “We called up Sabi and she told us the story. It’s grimy. People do stuff out there for no reason. Nobody deserves that, you feel me?”
“It’s a blessing she’s still here with us,” Ben said.
As you can tell by the title, “Found My Swag” doesn’t match the somber tone of the incident.
“Their style was similar to ours,” Ben J said of why they like working with their “little sisters.” “They’re girls and we’re guys, but we’re the exact same in this jerkin’ movement. ‘Found My Swag’ — the title is awesome. It defines them and defines us.”
“It’s all about swag, attitude,” Sabi explained. “Everyone is coming in poppin’ their collars. The New Boyz are there. The whole thing is performance-based. We’re just out here having fun. That’s pretty much the whole video.”