The 1980s crack era has reared its ugly head again in the form of James “Wall” Corley, hip-hop hustler icon and street legend, who was arrested last month and accused of being the ringleader of a big-time cocaine ring (see AP article below). Wall Corley is no stranger to the drug game, in fact he is one of the originators. As the accompanying photos show, Wall walked among giants and was in the midst of all the early development and have, rightly so, been celebrated in hip-hop’s lyrical lore by rappers like 50 Cent and Nas, among others.
Of course we are talking about Fat Cat, Supreme, Pappy Mason, Prince and others. Street icons who have been immortalized as mythical ghetto stars in documentaries like BET’s American Gangster series, books like Queens Reigns Supreme, Copshot, Street Legends Vol. 1 and 2 and The Supreme Team and in magazines like Don Diva, F.E.D.S. and AS IS. Their exploits have been romanticized and glorified in hip-hop as their images from the infamous Olympic Palace party in 1984 (shown here), portrayed how they were living the bling-bling lifestyle long before the rappers made it popular. Before crack, the Edward Bryne murder and Fat Cat’s arrest and imprisonment, the gangsters from Queens were doing it big like Tony Montana, setting the trends, fads and fashions with their ghetto fabulous style and swag.
Wall Corley’s name has always been associated and mentioned with the other Queens legends. He is well known as one of the founders of the Queens drug trade and as a member of “The Roundtable,” the conglomerate of Southside Jamaica drug barons that held sway at the dawn of hip-hop and the crack era and made millions. All of the Queens dealers would eventually be arrested and taken down but Wall Corley avoided any significant RICO Act trials or life sentences. Of all the drug tycoons, his story has been the least told. Maybe now that story will come out.
Despite reports, Wall Corley was not in the Supreme Team, he had his own unique thing at Forty Projects, where he ruled a drug empire with his brothers, who collectively were known as the “Corley Brothers,” Wall being the most infamous. The Corley Brothers had Forty Projects, just like Fat Cat and Pappy controlled the block and the Supreme Team ran Baisley Projects. Legend has it that all the Southside dealers came together to divide up the territory diplomatically so that there were no beefs. With the drug trade being so lucrative, they were all about getting that money. They were all business men first and foremost before the crack epidemic and killings changed the game forever for hustlers. Even though the Bebos and Pappy Mason took the fall for the Edward Bryne murder, all the dealers from that era in Queens have carried the stigma for the police officer’s killing. The crack epidemic and cop killing marked the end of the golden age of hustling ushered in by the South Jamaican drug lords.
Corley’s recent bust comes years after his last prison term and brings the legacy of the Queens drug dealers back to the forefront of New York’s tabloid media. They are sure to have a field day with the story and bring up all the old headlines. Rehashing the past to mesh with the present. A lot of people over the years have wondered what became of Wall Corley and now we know. He was doing his thing in the background, sticking to the shadows that much is clear, because most people didn’t know where he was or what he was about these days. They thought him a jaded legend who faded into obscurity like so many others. A relic of hip-hop and street lore, but his recent arrest shows the man was still living up to the legend, even at the age of 51.
The papers have reported he was known as “The Ghost” and in the annals of gangster lore he has remained an enigma as his story has never been fully explored or portrayed because obviously it wasn’t over and he was still in the game. And you know the old saying, “A gangster will never talk until it’s over.” But now what was underground has come to light. Remember 50 Cent got shot nine times for talking about dudes who were still in the life and the legend of Wall Corley is about to become tabloid fodder. We at Gorilla Convict salute the legend of Wall Corley, we wish him luck in his new battle against the state authorities and we hope he stands up, not just for his sake, but for the legacy of Queens, to protect the lineage and also preserve his own myth and place in the gangster chronicles and street genre.
Notorious 1980s drug dealer arrested in NYC
By COLLEEN LONG | Associated Press – Thu, May 17, 2012
NEW YORK (AP) — A notorious drug dealer who got his start during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and was so good at hiding his whereabouts that he was known as “the ghost” has been arrested along with dozens of others on new charges, police and prosecutors said Thursday.
James Corley, 51, was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance and other drug charges after a 15-month undercover investigation that used wiretaps and surveillance, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
Forty-four other people were also charged with drug crimes in the dismantling of Corley’s operation, known as the Supreme Team, and another drug gang, authorities said.
Corley supplied cocaine to a second gang called the South Side Bloods, and low-level dealers grossed about $15,000 a week in drug sales, Kelly said. Burned by a wiretap before, Corley used at least eight different phones, authorities said.
“He had an uncanny ability to keep his associates in the dark. No one knew where he lived, what phone number he used, what car he drove,” Kelly said.
A call to Corley’s lawyer wasn’t immediately returned Thursday.
The case was pieced together by Detective David Leonardi, who said the dealers used a language called the “5 percenter” where every number and letter had its own word and members decoded messages about drug orders. The wiretaps also netted information on illegal guns and a possible killing in South Carolina.
Corley came of age during the crack era of the late 1980s and was an associate of the Supreme Team, which controlled housing projects and corners in Queens, the ground zero of the crack epidemic in New York. Crime was rampant; in 1990, the number of murders hit an all-time high of 2,245.
The Supreme Team was run by legendary gang leader Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, who reputedly funneled drug money into rap music label Murder Inc. He’s now serving life without parole for a pair of murders after a 2007 conviction.
It was a brutal drug gang that came out of the same Queens streets where platinum rappers 50 Cent and Ja Rule emerged years later. At its peak, the Supreme Team’s network of dealers was making $200,000 a day, authorities said.
After McGriff did jail time on a drug conviction, he was released in 1997 and aligned himself with neighborhood friend and music mogul Irv “Gotti” Lorenzo. The one-time street thugs produced one film: “Crime Partners,” a straight-to-video affair that featured Ja Rule, Snoop Dogg and Ice-T.
The Supreme Team was responsible for the shooting of NYPD Officer Edward Byrne in 1988, authorities said, but Corley wasn’t charged in that killing. He was jailed once in the 1980s on drug charges, and was later convicted of manslaughter for beating to death a man he believed to be a police informant, and served more than three years, police said.
New York Police Department Capt. James Ryan said the takedown this week finally signaled the end of the remnants of the team that had terrorized Queens for decades. “We feel it’s pretty much dismantled now with Corley being taken out of the picture,” he said. “It remains to be seen, we’re always vigilant and we think this is the end of them.”
Read more about James “Wall” Corley, the Supreme Team and life on the Southside of Queens at the dawn of the crack era and hip-hop scene in The Supreme Team: The Birth of Crack and Hip-hop, Prince’s Reign of Terror and the Supreme/50 Cent Beef Exposed, you can order this book in print or eBook versions at gorillaconvict.com right now.