It has been one day since a terrible crime in London – the dust has yet to settle. But police have already figured out the identity of one of their suspects. And it just so happens that one of the men they have arrested is Unknown T, a rapper whose star is on the rise.
For his part, Unknown T has already accomplished a lot in his drill rapping career. The young artist, born in September 1997, had a single launch to number 48 on the U.K. Singles Chart, and festivals had enlisted him to perform at upcoming events. On top of that, Unknown T appeared on stage with Drake at the latter’s show in London in April 2019.
But the charges filed against Unknown T send all of that crashing down, should the court find him guilty of any involvement. His burgeoning music career could easily be stamped out if a judge hands down even a minimum sentence for such an offence – which is at least 15 years behind bars.
Arriving for an April 2019 interview with the Evening Standard, Unknown T instantly exhibited the duality of his personality. At first, he donned an extra-large jacket, using its hood to hide his face. But, when he pulled off his outerwear, the rapper appeared friendly, almost nerd-like to interviewer Alex Dymoke.
Unknown T, born Daniel Lena, explained the change simply. He said, “With me, I’m unknown. You don’t know what to expect.” As a perfect example, he then revealed to Dymoke something that he said he’d never told anyone before – he had excelled in school, earning mostly As and Bs during his academic career.
Unknown T then explained how his academic career had introduced him to his calling in life. He said, “At secondary school I studied economics and music. That led to my passion.” However, though he did well in these areas, Unknown T didn’t particularly succeed all-around while he was in school.
Unknown T continued, “All my teachers told me I was smart, but I was also a troublesome youth. Growing up was difficult. There were a lot of social pressures, the kind of thing a lot of young black people go through in deprived areas. But in life you have to push and keep going.”
Unknown T hails from London’s Homerton neighborhood, which doesn’t have a sparkling reputation. For one thing, Homerton sits within the borders of the Borough of Hackney. And using Metropolitan Police crime statistics for the 12 months from January 2018, MyLondon.com ranked Hackney as the city’s seventh most dangerous place to live.
And, of the neighborhoods within Hackney, the website put Homerton as the third-most dangerous of all the places one could live. In the full year from January 2018, the area saw 2,279 recorded offenses – 809 of those were violent crimes, while 770 had to do with theft. The area also saw 189 burglaries and 80 sexual offenses on top of all of that.
In his Evening Standard interview, Unknown T explained that he wanted his music to shine a light on the world in which he grew up. He said, “Music is art and we’re just painting the picture. You can’t put the blame on the artists, they are the ones who are representing the reality.”
For Unknown T, growing up in Homerton had only been an inspiration, even if some might’ve seen it as a drawback. He explained to Complex in April 2019, “The area I’m from influenced my music a lot. The people around me were all musically connected, so that definitely encouraged me to get involved.”
To that end, Unknown T said he hoped to be an example of what someone from Homerton could accomplish. He said, “I want to reflect the reality. I have to, so they understand where I come from, but I also want to show change. I want to show where, if you put your mind to it, hard work can take you.”
In the release of his first hit single, “Homerton B,” Unknown T indeed proved how far hard work can take someone. The track – the first from the drill genre to become a certified silver record – presented the rapper’s unique style. As Dymoke described it, “… T’s menacing baritone slaloms between street braggadocio and dancefloor rabble-rousing. It’s complex and original, a thrilling blend of attitude and craft.”
To get noticed, Unknown T had a plan – he used the song to “[try] to get the females interested,” something he believed that other drill rappers failed to do. He told The Evening Standard, “Being a cheeky lad, I thought, I’ll keep the ladies happy and mention them in the rap. I kept it jumpy, used my flow and a new concept.”
Of course, “jumpy” might not be the normal way of describing a drill song – the style of music, which originated on Chicago’s South Side, lays over trap-inspired beats. Adding to the ominous sound, lyrics often err on the side of gritty. Furthermore, rappers of the style tend to depict life on the streets, along with all of the drama that comes with it.
Still, with Unknown T’s genre-expanding drill rap single “Homerton B,” he hit the nail on the head. The independently released single garnered him a deal with Universal Music Group, and several publications listed it as one of 2018’s best songs.
For Unknown T, though, the most unbelievable moment in the song’s rise to the top was hearing it at one of London’s biggest festivals, the Notting Hill Carnival. He told Complex, “I knew people were feeling the tune, but I really didn’t grasp that everyone was vibing with it. It was a good experience seeing that, still.”
But rather than riding this wave of success, it took Unknown T another six months to put out a single after ”Homerton B.” This time, he released “Throwback,” a song that paid homage to the 2000s. He set the tune to a sample of “Wifey Riddim,” an instrumental track from Tinie Tempah, a fellow British rapper best known for “Written in the Stars,” among other tracks.
A half-year gap between “Homerton B” and “Throwback” got people talking about Unknown T’s presence – or lack thereof. He explained it by telling the Evening Standard, “People think I’ve been silent but they don’t understand. I needed time to focus, and to shift my sound, especially after everything that is going on, the stereotypes. It was difficult.”
For “Throwback,” Unknown T covered a completely different subject matter than he had done in “Homerton B.” For his second release, he switched gears in order to break free from the label of drill artist – the young man wanted to be seen as an artist, full stop. The genre typically dealt with life on the streets, and Unknown T didn’t want that to be his only topic of conversation.
Unknown T continued, “My shows were getting shut down, so I wanted to show people that I could do something different. When people hear ‘Homerton B,’ that’s the first chapter to my book. Then they hear ‘Throwback.’ It comes as a surprise.” And in the spring of 2019, it seemed as though he had plenty of chapters to write.
After the success of “Homerton B,” Unknown T started receiving invites to perform on some of the world’s biggest stages. In the summer of 2019, for instance, he performed at Wireless Festival in London. That year, the concert series saw record attendance, with 135,000 people showing up to hear rappers from Unknown T and Cardi B, to Travis Scott and Migos.
Before that though, Unknown T had made his way onstage at the O2 alongside Canadian rapper, Drake. The latter kicked off his residency at the London arena with guests including the “Homerton B” rapper, Digdat and Giggs. When Unknown T and Digdat joined Drake on stage, a giant Union Jack flag appeared beneath their feet.
Drake endorsed Unknown T, and Adidas came to follow suit. The latter artist became an ambassador for the brand, donning looks in a series of images meant to highlight the new generation of creatives. His inclusion made sense, considering all of the potential that Unknown T had – and all that he saw for himself in the future.
Unknown T told Complex in April 2019 to expect to “hear a couple of new tunes from me. I’m trying to give you a lot of tape, still, but give me a bit of time to work on that.” He also promised to continue “making good music” in his way, adding, “I’m just gonna carry on being versatile. I like to touch different genres, that is my style.”
But new music wouldn’t be the next big story in Unknown T’s career. Instead, in July 2019 – just days after he played at Wireless Festival – the rapper faced serious accusations at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court. He had to answer to murder and violent disorder charges over the death of Steven Narvaez-Jara.
Tragically, within 15 hours over the new year between 2017 and ‘18, four young men died from stab wounds in the English capital. One of them was Steven Narvaez-Jara, a 20-year-old who had attended a party in celebration of the impending new year.
The party took place in an apartment complex near London’s Old Street, and those living nearby could tell that something had gone terribly wrong during the celebrations. A neighbor told the Evening Standard in January 2018 that they heard screams and saw attendees fleeing. The witness said, “I heard some girl shout out, crying, ‘Oh, he’s been stabbed.’”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman told The Sun newspaper, “Police were called by paramedics on New Year’s Day 2018, at around 2:35 a.m. to an address, a flat in Bartholomew Court. [Narvaez-Jara], from Belvedere Kent, was found suffering from stab injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.”
Along with Narvaez-Jara, another 20-year-old man had been stabbed, but first responders reached him in time – and he later recovered from his injuries in hospital. Later, the authorities revealed that they thought the weapon used to kill Narvaez-Jara and injure another had been a machete.
Before suffering from those fatal wounds, Narvaez-Jara had harbored big dreams for his future. Born in Ecuador, he had moved to the U.K. and eventually enrolled at the University of Hertfordshire. There, he studied aerospace and physics, disciplines that would help him toward his life’s goal of becoming a pilot.
Katheryne Herrera described Narvaez-Jara through a JustGiving page created to cover his funeral costs. She wrote, “He was passionate about music as well as football. A young man who was loved amongst his family and peers and as the Ecuadorian young man he was, he was full of life and loved a great party.”
Herrera added that Narvaez-Jara “left behind a loving mother, father and three younger sisters.” She confirmed that the family felt “numb and broken” by the loss of their son and brother in a senseless act of violence. Others were left hurting by the crime, too – according to one of his uncles, who spoke to the Evening Standard, “He was a very popular boy.”
Just one day after Narvaez-Jara’s stabbing, Unknown T was arrested over the crime. According to The Mirror, authorities claimed that he “used or threatened unlawful violence when present together with others being three or more persons in total.” As such, two other men, Mohammed Mussee and Raman Boreland also faced charges of violent disorder.
Boreland, along with Unknown T, was charged with murder, too. Police initially arrested them and Musse mere days after the murder, but then released them on bail. When Unknown T appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on July 18, 2019, he only did so to confirm personal details – his real name, his address and his age.
Afterward, Unknown T remained in police custody, as did Boreland. Musse, meanwhile, who faced lesser charges than his co-defendants, received bail. Still, all three men have to return at a later date to The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales – colloquially known as the Old Bailey.
After news broke of Unknown T’s alleged involvement in the brutal stabbing, his team wouldn’t respond to requests for comment. But fans took to Twitter to express their shock about the accusations against the artist amid his rise to fame, with some arguing that his story embodied the ups and downs that come with life.
One Twitter user wrote, “Two weeks ago Unknown T was performing at Wireless, today he’s been charged with murder. See how quickly life can change?” Then, she added, “Life comes at you fast. If he’s innocent, I hope he gets freedom and, if he’s not, I hope the family gets justice.”
Others expressed their shock at seeing Unknown T’s name trending on the social media site, only to find out the reason why. Naturally, most expected to find out that the artist had a new album or singles to release. But instead, clicking through shocked them, because they found out that the rapper had been charged with murder.
For now, the Metropolitan Police have their lines open to anyone with information about the murder of Narvaez-Jara. In a statement, they said, “[We] remain keen to hear from anyone who can assist their investigation.” And, because of the serious nature of Unknown T’s crimes, he’s likely to remain in police custody until his trial.