Hundreds of people turned up to two vigils Friday and Saturday in South Berkeley for Brandon Moore, more commonly known as Young Busco, or just Busco, who died on Nov. 25 at the age of 31.
The vigils — lively celebrations of the Berkeley native’s life with music, dancing and singing — took place at the intersection of Ellis and Fairview streets. Friday, police were called to the event for multiple reports of gunfire. BPD said it appeared people had been shooting into the air. No victims were identified. On Saturday afternoon, dozens of candles could be seen at a memorial set up on the northwest side of the intersection, along with photographs of Busco and a few empty liquor bottles.
Busco gained a huge following as a social media personality after he inadvertently created what became the wildly popular “What are those?” meme three years ago.
Moore’s mother, Valerie Cooper, posted about her son’s death the Sunday he died on Facebook, writing, “My only child… My faith will not falter. Lord be my peace.” Cooper told People magazine Busco died in his sleep around 10 a.m. on Nov. 25, and that the cause of death was unknown. At that point, there had been no autopsy report.
Busco was described by those who knew him as happy and mischievous as well as a good cook. He was always trying to make people laugh, according to his family. “He turned a whole lot of frowns to smiles every single day with no effort, it was just natural,” his girlfriend, Radelle “Noonie” Martin, told People.
Busco is survived by his nine children, according to the Washington Post which published a story about his fame and death last week.
Attempts by Berkeleyside to reach Busco’s family have so far proved unsuccessful.
The event that made Busco famous happened in 2015 near the Ashby BART station when he filmed police arresting a friend for public intoxication, according to multiple media reports. During the arrest, Busco approached a police officer and said, “Officer, I’ve got one question for you. What are thooooooose?” as he pans his camera first up then down and zooms in on the police officer’s shoes.
The video was a hit on Busco’s Instagram (watch it above), which has more than 61,000 followers, but it really took off when someone uploaded it to the now-defunct Vine platform less than a week after it was first shared. The six-second clip, captioned “Not even the Police are safe,” has been played nearly 38 million times.
Not only did the meme go viral and give Busco a social-media platform for his humor, it also prompted celebrities including Michael Jordan to have their shoe choices questioned, as well as cause people to ruminate on the meaning of memes.
The meme even earned an homage in Black Panther, the record-breaking 2018 film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. In the movie, the protagonist’s younger sister, Shuri, shouts, “What are thoooose?” on noticing the Black Panther’s sandals.
Not long after posting the clip, Busco was arrested on a narcotics charge as well as a probation violation, according to Vice, which interviewed him when he was in Santa Rita jail. He had told other reporters that he was sorry he had not worked out a way to benefit financially from the viral meme. But, in the Vice interview, he said: “Everything I do, I do for the people anyway. That’s where my fulfillment comes from. That’s how I got my payment.”
In Facebook posts published in the week since her son died, Cooper shared photos of Busco and wrote, “My baby, my boy, my man….Thanking God for allowing me to have you for 31 years. Not enough time…I needed more time… but I trust the lord even when I don’t understand…”
Police were in attendance at Saturday’s vigil, according to a witness who asked to remain anonymous.
A celebration of Busco’s life is planned for Dec. 7 at the Acts Full Gospel Church in Oakland, according to Cooper.
[Editor’s Note: Information from BPD about gunfire at Friday’s vigil was added to the story after publication.]