Born March 2, 1962, in, Bronx, New York City, New York, Sterling was raised by his mother, Carolyn Morant, a career municipal employee. (His parents split when he was four-years-old.) As a youngster, he moved from Queens to the Morissania section of the Bronx, and then to Morris Heights. Scott excelled in both academics and sports at Our Savior Lutheran High School, graduating in 1980 and heading off to Castleton State College in Vermont. He earned a varsity letter in basketball there. As it became clear that he would not become a professional basketball player, Sterling became more and more focused on music. At Castleton State, he used to DJ at Dugan’s Bar on Friday nights with Lee Smith. He helped introduce the entire campus to music from New York City.
Sterling graduated in 1984 and returned to New York City in hopes of finding work and making in-roads to the music industry. Through a connection of his mother’s, Scott landed a job as a social worker at Franklin Armory Men’s Shelter on 166th St in the Bronx. At night, though, he spun records at the hip hop hot spot, the Broadway Repertoire Theatre.
During his time as a social worker, Sterling met rapper KRS-One in 1986 at Franklin Men’s Shelter where KRS resided. The pair formed Boogie Down Productions (BDP) with DJ Derrick “D-Nice” Jones, a cousin of the shelter’s security guard, Floyd Payne. The group’s 1987 debut album, Criminal Minded, is considered a classic of hip-hop.
Sterling met a violent death in 1987. His friend and BDP associate D-Nice had been assaulted by a couple of young men because D-Nice had been talking to one of their ex-girlfriends. D-Nice asked Sterling to try to help defuse the situation. Later that day, Sterling, Scotty “Manager Moe” Morris, DJ McBooo, D-Nice and BDP Bodyguard Darrell, all riding in a red Jeep CJ-7 with a white fiberglass top on it, drove to the Highbridge Homes Projects building on University Avenue in the South Bronx where the offending parties lived. Sterling’s intention may have been to try to defuse the situation, but plenty of physical support arrived with him. As they were leaving, bullets ripped through the side and top of the Jeep. Sterling was hit in the neck.
Critically wounded, he was driven in the Jeep to Lincoln Hospital, which was less than a mile away. He was conscious and talking to the doctors as he was wheeled into the emergency room. Sterling then stated to the doctor that he was feeling cold and tired. At first it was thought that his injuries were not life-threatening, and his friends last saw him being wheeled away into surgery. They couldn’t go into the emergency room with him, so they went to the diner around the corner on Grand Concourse and East 149th Street to wait while he was treated. However, Sterling died in the operating room within one hour of being shot. Two men were arrested and charged with Sterling’s murder but were acquitted at the trial. KRS-One continued Boogie Down Productions despite the loss, crediting subsequent releases as being overseen by Scott La Rock. Scott La Rock’s death played a role in fueling the Stop the Violence Movement.