To live by a code, to embody that ideal, to be the real deal that is death before dishonor. A lot of dudes talk about keeping it real and staying true to the game but when they get busted and snitch they say, “Charge it to the game.” The drug game is fucked up, that’s a fact. With Mandatory Minimums, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and our government’s War on Drugs snitching has become the norm. A man who sticks to his ideals is a rarity. A throwback to the past when principles, omerta and honor among thieves stood for something other than a rap video. This new “Stop Snitching” fad embraced by the hip-hop culture is all well and good but will it harken back to the times of old when men where men, gangsters kept their mouths shut and crossing your brother was obsolete?
With black gangsters newfound relevance in pop culture due to rappers putting them on pedestals and mythologizing their crime exploits in verse a new kind of anti-hero from the inner city is taking their place next to the Mafia and Billy the kid in American folklore. With magazines like Don Diva and FEDS, Ethan Brown’s Queens Reigns Supreme and BET’s American Gangster series wetting the public’s appetite for the street legends long idolized by rappers a movement is afoot. But for real don’t get it twisted. Let’s not get it fucked up. A lot of snitches, rats and informants are getting their shine on and being held up as an example of the American black gangster. Cats like Alpo who was featured in FEDS, and Freeway Ricky Ross, Fat Cat, and Leroy “Nicky” Barnes who were profiled on BET’ s American Gangster. Just like the mafia turncoats before them they are getting all the hype. About the only publication that keeps it real is Don Diva who refuses to pay tribute to snitches or those who turn their back on and betrayed the criminal code and the drug game.
Don Diva goes hard like the gorilla convict blog and only honors true gangsters like Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, who is going to trial in January and facing the death penalty. He is a man who embodies what death before dishonor means. To both law enforcement and a generation of rappers and hustlers Supreme is a black John Gotti, a larger than life figure whose underworld reach seems limitless.
“The streets will always respect Preme for who he is,” says David “Bing” Robinson, a former Supreme Team member who was with Supreme since the jump off in the 80’s. Bing, who grew up in South Jamaica first met Preme as a teen and was arrested with him on a l985 drug case in New York City. Bing came home in 1989, hooked up with Preme’s nephew, Prince, while Preme was in prison and subsequently got a 19 year sentence on the infamous Supreme Team racketeering case from 1993.
We always been good.” Bing says looking back on his association with the notorious gangster. “Everybody had their good ways and their bad ways to them. But Preme is a brother to me. I have no complaints. He was always good to me. We lived the life. I’ll love that nigga forever.” And for real when black American gangsters are mentioned Supreme’s name is at the top of the list along with Frank Mathews aka Black Ceaser who is still a fugitive from justice 30 years after he was indicted. All these other dudes got it fucked up.
“The biggest names come out of Queens,” Curtis Scoon said in an allhiphop.com interview where he trashed fellow gangsta writer Ethan Brown as a fraud. But who is Curtis Scoon? A Queens native and aspiring screenwriter that was a suspect in the Jam Master Jay homicide who is now capitalizing on his notoriety and the gangsta craze. Along with Ethan Brown he appeared in BET’s American Gangster segment on Fat Cat, Lorenzo Nichols and according to Scoon he played a big part in Ethan Brown’s book, Queens Reign Supreme. “I came up with the idea to put all the guys in Queens in one book and then connect it to hip-hop.” He said. And with his Fat Cat piece in the new King Scoon is really pushing Cat who he said, “Is the biggest name in his time in the 80’s.” But it’s been circulating that Fat Cat snitched on Howard “Pappy” Mason, his cohort in crime for years. Even 50 Cent rapped about that but to a lot of Queens dudes from the era, Cat is still the man. But they don’t know who Curtis Scoon is. With so many dudes jumping on the bandwagon its hard to see who’s legit and who’s not. But one things certain and two for sure- Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff is that dude, always has been and anyone associated with him is certified.
“They always gonna remember him as a top legend from the hood,” Bing says. “He was one of the main generals who represented Southside Jamaica Queens to the fullest. He’s a person the streets will always remember as a legend. He reaped the hood and made Southside Jamaica shine.” But his legend has also been his downfall. Hence, his 2005 federal indictment and the allegations he provided seed money and muscle to record label Murder Inc., which has largely been disproven with Irv Gotti and his brother’s acquittal last year. But still Preme has to face the music.
The feds contend that Supreme has been responsible for Mafia style murders while moving kilos of cocaine in multiple states following his release from prison in the mid 90’s after a 12 year bid in the feds on a drug kingpin charge. The feds are trying to give Supreme the death penalty, alleging he directed co-conspirators to kill associates in Baltimore and that he arranged other murders in New York City. He was originally indicted with the people accused of committing the murders and the Murder Inc honchos but his trial was severed several times until he stood alone and after numerous delays and no co-defendants he will finally go to trial in January.
“All I know is that they ain’t letting no black man win no federal trial, no murder case.” Bing says. “Especially a dude like him with his history. He got more shit against him then we did in the RICO act case. I don’t think he can beat that. I hope he does for his sake.” But with all his former co-defendants and those accused of the murders in the government fold ready to testify against him. It doesn’t look good for Supreme. He even admitted as much in a Vibe magazine interview last summer.
“You can put the death penalty on me,” Supreme said. “I’ve lived my life already. I’ve done everything I wanted to do. I’m gonna stick to my values and face certain death. Every shooting they point the finger at me, the bad guy.” It seems in a way as if Preme has already conceded the government the victory. But how did it all evolve and come to this point.
“They painted this picture themselves,” Antoine Clark the publisher of FEDS magazine who recently appeared in the BET American Gangster segment on Leroy “Nicky” Barnes and who regularly pays tribute to rats in his publication said in a NY Times interview, concerning the whole Murder Inc/ Supreme situation. “There’s something that comes behind bringing in a king pin to ride with you. There’s a certain ghetto pride and ghetto respect, but there’s also a police investigation into the ties.” But to dudes like Bing, real dudes who know what’s really up, the whole thing is a travesty.
“Shit was good. He was going legit.” Bing says of Preme’s hook up with Murder Inc and production of the DVD Crime Partners in early Y2k. “I was glad for that. He was with a legitimate organization that was making millions of dollars. That was like hitting the lotto. Especially, how they looked up to him like they did.” But with the subsequent investigation into Murder Inc, because of Supreme’s past it all fell apart, the dream of legitimacy that is.
“At first, I didn’t think nothing of it,” Bing says. “Because they were always putting his name out there, because of who he was. They linked him to everything, because of his name.” And Supreme’s name stayed ringing bells, because of all the rappers like Biggie, Nas, The Game, and 50 Cent who big upped him and the Supreme Team in their songs mythologizing them for their 80’s crime exploits.
“It was good to that they paid homage to us for who we were and what we did,” Bing says of the verses. “But I felt different about it when I first heard that shit. It is what it is.” And in Vibe, Supreme had even more to say about it. “When we was coming up, there was a code of conduct. You didn’t speak about dudes who may still e in the streets.” But in Y2k with everything gangsta going popular culture the rules are all getting twisted. And this leads to the biggest allegation and one that is uncharged in his indictment. The allegation that he ordered the shooting of 50 Cent in 2000.
As everyone know 50 Cent was shot 9 times in front of his grandmother’s house in Jamaica Queens. He went on to rap about surviving the attack and even raised the question in verse of whether Preme had anything to do with it. “This dude sensationalizes everything. All his statements are incendiary.” Preme said in Vibe. “The government believes every lyric and then he (tells the police), ‘read my lyrics.’ Where I come from, that’s dry snitching.” And in the Murder Inc trial super snitch Jon “Love” Ragin who worked on the Crime Partners DVD with Supreme testified that Supreme told him he put the hit on 50. The whole scenario will most likely be replayed in the upcoming trial. Could 50 Cent make an appearance? On the whole 50 Cent deal Preme broke it down in Vibe, “Kid, you’ve never been through nothing. I was around wolves, man. I walked among giants, he said and recently in XXL 50 fired back.
“He fuckin on trial. He shouldn’t be talking. He should be keeping his fuckin mouth shut. I’m sure if he had a lawyer his lawyer would tell him not to have that fuckin article.” 50 said alluding to the fact that Preme has a public defender representing him and in the same interview 50 even questioned Preme’s motives.
“Are you an organized crime mob boss, or were you a nigga from Baisley Projects that sold crack?” 50 asked and went on. “Preme loves to be out in the eye. He wants to be a fucking celebrity. He was a nigga you would look at and say, he the real deal. But the nigga at this point is broken. You mean to tell me none of the crew is making enough money in the streets to handle your lawyer fees, I don’t recall John Gotti ever having a problem getting his lawyers’ fees paid.” But maybe that solidifies the defenses point. Supreme was trying to go legit. There is no crew. This whole indictment is just some gangsta rap fantasy the government has concocted by lifting the evidence straight from 50 cent’s lyrics. Talk about reality TV.
“I feel for him,” Bing says of his man Supreme. “But if you choose to live that life you got to suck it up. Dudes getting life everyday, Everybody got to fight their battle. We fought ours back in the day. A life sentence is not a good thing but when you choose that lifestyle its one of the consequences. ”
Consequences to one’s actions is what magazines like Don Diva stress in their pages. It’s why they don’t glorify or promote rats, because snitches don’t pay the consequences of their actions. They put someone else in the line of fire. That is not honorable. And a true gangsta like Supreme represents what death before dishonor means. He prefers death, is willing to face death, rather then dishonor his name, his hood, and his reputation. And concerning the indictment Supreme said in his Vibe interview, “It’s like a desperation grab. I’ve never been known as a murderer and all of a sudden I’m this psychotic killer.” Even 50 Cent rhymed as much in Ghetto Quaran- Preme was the businessman and Prince was the killer- so if the feds are really reading 50’s lyrics, it seems they got it all fucked up.