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Photo by Sadef Kully
Celebrity barber Zanu Simpson of Hollis is shot to death sitting in his BMW in Springfield Gardens.
By Naeisha Rose

Hollis barbershop owner Zanu Simpson, 32, who catered to rappers and professional athletes, was shot to death early Tuesday morning outside a bar in Springfield Gardens, according to the NYPD. He had complained on social media that rivals were jealous of him.

Police responding to a 911 call found the Jamaica resident unresponsive and unconscious at South Conduit and Lansing avenues with bullet wounds to the head. Authorities said there was a 9 millimeter gun at the scene.

EMS transported Simpson to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Police determined that he was engaged in a struggle prior to being shot inside his BMW x5 and robbery was the motive. But the NYPD said it had no leads and no description of the shooter.

Facebook posts and Instagram messages from Simpson said he had rivals who were jealous of his popularity and the wealth that came with it.

“Back when I was broke [people were] cool [with] me,” Simpson wrote in his last Facebook post Monday. “My Haters [want] to see me fall, but I would never sell my soul.”

His last Instagram post read that “[people] were taking shots” at him and featured two gun emojis and the hashtag #UntiliGetFilthyRich.

According to his social media pages, Simpson was the owner and a master barber of “Strictly Skillz Barbershop,” located at 190-11 Hollis Ave.

The Hollis barbershop he owned has a five-star rating from his customers, and his clients went to both social media pages to express their condolences to his family, including his brother Samuel Simpson, who co-owned the barbershop.

Simpson celebrated his 32nd birthday July 8, according to his Facebook timeline.

“I’m just blessed to see another year in life and be able to celebrate this day with the people that have a lot of love for me,” Simpson said.

Hollis hip-hop muralist Jocelyn Goode described the flashy tattooed barber as “laid back,” and appreciated how he supported her not-profit art for kids, Culture Cocoa ArtHouse Inc., by letting her put up fliers in his barbershop.

“We would even have debates about media and he would say that I should get on social media to reach more people,” Goode said.

She described the celebrity barber who styled rappers Meek Mills, Bow Wow and Royal Ivey, a former NBA player now on the coaching staff of the Oklahoma City Thunder, as “a role model to the kids,” because he worked hard and worked long hours.

Ivey is friendly with the Simpson brothers and went to their barbershop for over 13 years. He was devastated to hear the news.

“He was a very humble young man, positive and always had a smile,” Ivey said in a phone interview. “He looked up to his big brother, and the two were so inseparable that people thought they were twins.”

He described the Simpson brothers as big basketball fans.

“They would both come out to support my games,” Ivey said.

Ivey was proud to watch someone he saw grow up before his eyes become a great example to the community.

“He would give out free haircuts to the kids sometimes and throw barbecues,” Ivey said.

Kids in the neighborhood were impressed that the brothers used some of their profits to self-finance a reality show in 2013 called “Strickly Skillz: The Life Reality Show,” according to Goode.

Goode thought that Simpson was just as essential to the character of Hollis as rappers LL Cool J and Run DMC, natives of the area who put the place on the map.

“That was a part of our legacy,” Goode said. “You can’t make him come back.”

There were no arrests as of press time, and the investigation is ongoing.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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