Legendary figures of the drug game have been the province of myth and hearsay until the rise of hip-hop where rappers name drop weaponry by style number and drug dealers by name. Cocaine or gangsta rap is crack era nostalgia taken to its extreme. A world where rappers relive in their videos the lives of their favorite street legend, celebrating their name in verse and making iconic ghetto heroes out of crime figures. Taking their names as monikers and rhyming about their exploits as if they were their own.
Gangsters have long had ties to the music industry, just look at the connection between Frank Sinatra and the mob. And in hip-hop it’s no different. The glamour of the gangster life has always been exploited by entertainment figures. With rap and crack both being born 30 years ago, many of the early rappers ran with people in the drug world and some notable hustlers have made the transition to the industry. Hip-hop and hustling have inhabited the same social spheres since the jump. With the rappers growing up on the ensuing folklore and idolizing the street heroes from their hood. These individuals embodied all that the rappers aspired to be. The common denominator being money, power and respect. Here are the most celebrated gangsters in hip-hop. We match the face and the legend to the song lyric.
Pushin’ cars, Nicky Barnes was the 70s/but then there’s a long list of high profile celebrities- Get Down, God’s Son (2002) Nas
I’m from where Nicky Barnes got rich as fuck- Killa Kam, Purple Haze (2004) Cam’ron
They say the arms of Nicky Barnes would be enough to blast/a lot of rich niggas fell and started pumping gas- Silent Murder, It Was Written (1996) Nas
Don’t hate me, hate Nicky Barnes for hittin’ my moms- Bad Boyz, Shyne (2000) Shyne
Life ain’t a sitcom/gotta keep your wisk on/shit niggas bitch/others snitch/like Nicky Barnes- Envious, A.W.O.L. (2005) AZ
Livin’ the life of stock, bonds and cars/word bond/when I be gone/I’ll be worshipped like Nicky Barnes- Part Deux, Jealous One’s Envy (1995) Fat Joe
One of the most mentioned drug lords in hip-hop is also one of the most infamous. Known as Mr. Untouchable, due to a 1977 New York Times magazine article, the Harlem based Nicky Barnes is one of the most noteworthy criminals of the black underworld ever. He had it all- an epic rise to fame and power, from junkie to kingpin; a legitimate organized all black crime syndicate, The Council; an Italian Mafia mentor in “Crazy” Joe Gallo; a multimillion dollar heroin dealing empire; a fleet of luxury cars such as Mercedes Benz’s, Maserati’s and Cadillac’s; and a high rise penthouse apartment with a bevy of gorgeous girls. Barnes was known as a flashy guy and sharp dresser who spared no expenses. It’s said his confidence bordered on arrogance. He was truly a ghetto king. It was actually his New York Times cover shot that brought him down. The smug arrogance portrayed by Barnes in the photo so affronted President Jimmy Carter that he ordered his Attorney General to prosecute Barnes to the fullest extent of the law. Barnes went to prison with a life sentence but after a couple of years in prison, with his orders no longer being followed by The Council, and his girlfriends all run off with his former partners in The Council, Barnes turned snitch and ratted out his crew. The man who was said to have inspired the 1970s hit Big, Bad Leroy Brown betrayed the street code he lived by and has gone down in infamy as one of the biggest rats ever. In 2007 he released a book, Mr. Untouchable written with Tom Folsom and a documentary of the same name about his life. He has also been the subject of many documentaries and was profiled on BET’s American Gangster series. His Feds magazine interview jumpstarted the whole street magazine genre and in the 2007 film American Gangster he was played by Cuba Gooding Jr. Barnes is currently out of prison and in the federal Witness Protection Program.
Some fiends scream about Supreme Team/a Jamaica, Queens thing- Memory Lane (Sittin’ in the Park), Illmatic (1994) Nas
You know how them niggas do!/Tash and Cornbread, Supreme/Niggas that were gettin’ money/that I was growing up trying to be like/word up to all them gangsta niggas- All We Got is Us, Reunion (2000) Noreaga
Prince from Queens and Fritz from Harlem/street legends, the drugs kept the hood from starvin’- Get Down, God’s Son (2002) Nas
When you hear talk of the southside/you hear talk of the team/see nigga feared Prince and respected Preme/for all you slow muthafuckas/ I’m a break it down iller/see Preme was the businessman and Prince was the killer…remember he used to push the bulletproof BM…had the whole projects workin’ for fifty on five hundred…from Gerald Wallace to Babywise, don’t be surprised…and Prince and Righteous from Hillside with the mole on his nose- Ghetto Qu’ran, Guess Who’s Back (2002) 50 Cent
Don’t nobody respect you nigga/you Preme’s son nigga/muthafucka been getting extorted since day one- Order of Protection, 50 Cent
50, who shot ya? You think it was Preme, Freeze or Tata?- Fuck you, Guess Who’s Back (2002) 50 Cent
You wouldn’t deceive top dog Supreme Team? How and why would you try to fuck us/on the real- Survival of the Illest 2- Ja Rule
The Supreme Team, with its founder and leader- Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff and second in command Gerald “Prince” Miller- from Queens, New York has been one of the most polarizing crews and stories in hip-hop. From their 1980s crack era heyday to Supreme’s affiliation with Murder Inc. in the 1990s and early 2000s. What has become known as the Supreme Team was a crew organized in the early 80s in the vicinity of the Baisley Park Houses, a public housing project in Jamaica Queens, New York by a group of teenagers who were members of a quasi-religious sect known as the Five Percenters. Under Supreme and Prince, the gang concentrated its criminal efforts on the widespread distribution of crack cocaine. At its 1987 peak, the Supreme Team’s receipts exceeded $200,000 a day and the gang regularly committed acts of violence and murder to maintain its stronghold on the areas drug trade. Under the red brick towers of Baisley Projects an around the clock crack cocaine trade that operated more like a corporation than a drug outfit prospered selling 25,000 crack vials a week. Team members communicated in coded languages and numerical systems. They deployed lookouts with two-way radios and rooftop sentinels. The sophistication of the gang’s operation enabled it to survive the periodic targeting of various members for prosecution by the NYPD and the Queens County District Attorney’s Office. Supreme and Prince were so adept at beating or avoiding state prosecutions at trial that the feds finally had to step in. And in the end the feds took down the whole crew. Prince and others ended up with life sentences due to the violence attributed to them but Supreme got off with a relatively light 12 year sentence and returned to the streets to be embraced by the hip-hop world. He became a figure in the industry producing a straight to DVD movie, Crime Partners, based on a Donald Goines’ novel and had plans to produce more but the feds and street gossip did him in. It was alleged he had 50 Cent shot before his rise to stardom and had a hand in the murder of Jam Master Jay from Run DMC. Though unproven, these allegations led to police investigating his every move and in 2007 Supreme was convicted on a murder for hire charge for killing Mobb Deep affiliate E-Money Bags and one other. Supreme was sentenced to life. His story and the teams have been chronicled in many street documentaries, on BET’s American Gangster series, in Ethan Browns Queens Reigns Supreme and Seth Ferranti’s Street Legends Vol. 1. Prince, Supreme and other team members have also done interviews in Don Diva, As Is and Feds magazines. It’s said Supreme was depicted in 50 Cent’s film Get Rich or Die Tryin’ as the character Majestic and the movie New Jack City is allegedly based off the Supreme Team’s 80s exploits and takeover of Baisley Park Houses, a project in South Jamaica. Currently Prince is serving his life sentence at USP Allenwood in Pennsylvania and Supreme is at the Bureau of Prison’s supermax, ADX Florence in Colorado.
Shout out to Big Meech, Trilla Intro, Trilla, (2008) Rick Ross
One time for Big Meech, Larry Hoover/real niggas, hallelujah/this for my real niggas I swear to god/you know its death before dishonor its in my fucking heart- The Real BMF, Death Before Dishonor (2010) Young Jeezy
You know me, yeah, I got my B.M.F. on 4.5s/the weapon better wear ya Teflon- Streets on Lock, BMF Presents Blue Da Vinci (2006)
The Black Mafia Family was a drug organization run by Big Meech and his brother, Terry “Southwest T” Flenory, that originally operated out of Detroit, Michigan but spread south and west as Big Meech made Atlanta his base and Southwest T ran his part of the family out of L.A. With Mexican based drug cartels supplying them unlimited kilos of cocaine, the Black Mafia Family made $270 million over a 15 year period. Around 2000, Big Meech began to try to legitimize their operations by starting BMF Entertainment. He tried to become a player in the hip-hop industry from his ATL base. Big Meech and BMF appeared in hip-hop DVD magazines, had billboards towering over Atlanta proclaiming “the world is BMFs” and were affiliated with Fabulous, Young Jeezy and Bleu Davinci. He also put out a hip-hop magazine and appeared in many videos. Big Meech was know for making it rain in strip clubs, throwing lavish A-list parties that were not to miss and purchasing Cristal by the bottle for every member of his crew while out partying in clubs. When BMF came through they were deep and everyone knew it was them. By 2005 though, the Black Mafia Family was indicted by the feds. Big Meech was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2007. His name has stayed alive and relevant in raps lyrical lore and he has done interviews with Don Diva and The Source magazines. Also, Mara Shalhoup wrote a book entitled BMF: The Rise and Fall of Big Meech and the Black Mafia Family and the History Channel aired a segment on the crew on their Gangland series in 2010 titled Death Before Dishonor. Big Meech is currently serving his time at FCI Jessup in Georgia.
With the top back in my Sox hat/I’m paid in full, the nigga Alpo couldn’t stop that/even if they brought the nigga ‘Pac back/I’ll still keep this muthafucka cocked back- My Life, L.A.X. (2008) The Game
I’m Rich like Porter/havin’ Alpo nightmares- Money, L.A.X. (2008) The Game
I’m like Rich Porter/the epitome of Alpo/Azie and Nicky Barnes/I rock charms- All We Got Is Us, Reunion (2000) Noreaga
Yo, Black is flashy like Alpo/gun happy like Pappy …picture this young nigga/getting’ it like Rich Porter- 50 Bars of Pleasure, 50 Bars of Pain, Guess Who’s Back (2002) 50 Cent
Dedicated to Rich Porter’s little brother/who died in the struggle/and never got recognized for it- All We Got Is Us, Reunion (2000) Noreaga
Uptown was Alpo, son, heard he was kingpin yo- Memory Lane, (Sittin’ in Da’ Park), Illmatic, (1994) Nas
Rest in peace to Rich and Ron/money what they was about, yo/the twins was from Queens/but got crazy cream with Alpo- Ghetto Qu’ran, Guess Who’s Back, (2002) 50 Cent
A seventeen year reign, simple and plain/when I ruled the rap game and all my peers sold cocaine / 1 – 3 – 2 Uptown, when Rich Porter told me/ “See you can push a new car, it’s different for a rap star/and AZ was givin’ 50’s to the homeless/they never bragged about it: “L, we don’t condone this”- The Truth, LL Cool J, DJ Kay Slay mixtape
And Alpo ordered guys to slaughter guys/and the whole Harlem was in tears when Rich Porter died- I Remember When, Children of the Corn (2003) Cam’ron
I’m from where Rich and A hit the kitchen/they were pitchin’ up- Killa Kam, Purple Haze (2004) Cam’ron
I’m out of order/I turn your only daughter/into a transporter/before I die/I’m gonna see more blow/than Rich Porter- 50 Cent
I don’t want to be like Mike/more like Po and Porter/getting shipments at the border- Shyne
It ain’t about Rich and Po, nigga/its bout rich and po’- Jay-Z
On the back of the bike with Alpo/doin’ a back down one-two-five/hopin’ to stay alive/favorite spot rooftop- LL Cool J
The twin brother of Rich Porter separated at birth/New Rich Porter, the way I flip quarters- Jay-Z
I’m Alpo, before you snitch dog- That’s Gangsta, Shyne (2000) Shyne
Alberto “Alpo” Martinez, Rich Porter and Azie Faison were teenage drug lords from 1980s Harlem. Their flashy styles influenced rappers like LL Cool J, who wrote a whole album, Walking with the Panther, about hanging out with them and street culture in general. The teenage drug lords were trendsetters of epic proportions. From crack cocaine kingpins to inner-city legends, the trends Alpo and Rich Porter set still resonate today. With the Gucci leather suits, fur coats and chains, rappers from LL to Cam’ron have bit their style and made them iconic in hip-hop. From Harlem their attitudes and style spread to the world. Their partnership had a tragic ending though as Alpo killed Rich Porter, ending their friendship permanently. After murdering his best friend in cold blood Alpo had to bounce, because Rich Porter was beloved in Harlem and the streets were out for Alpo’s head. Alpo ended up in Washington D.C., where with the help of stick up kid and hitman Wayne Perry, he filled the vacuum in the coke trade left by the arrest of Rayful Edmond and his crew. Alpo was known for his flash and style in Harlem but in D.C. he became a cocaine kingpin that left a trial of murders behind him. With Wayne Perry, his enforcer, killing at his command, Alpo killed his way to the top of D.C.’s coke cocaine hierarchy. One of his victims was D.C. street legend Michael Fray. When he was finally arrested for his crimes though he broke weak and snitched out his man Wayne Perry for a reduced sentence on the 14 homicides he pled guilty to. During his time supplying D.C.’s narcotics markets it’s estimated Alpo was taking in around $1 million a month. His early rise to fame in Harlem inspired the film Paid in Full, in which Cam’ron portrayed a young Alpo. He also did a lengthy Feds magazine interview, which helped launch that magazine and put the street magazine genre on the map nationally. Alpo has been the subject of many documentaries and Don Diva covered the Rich Porter story in their article Hell up in Harlem. Alpo is currently in the federal Bureau of Prison’s Witsec program, allegedly being housed in the cheese factory at FCI Otisville, New York. He is scheduled for release soon as the 26 years he was sentenced to is almost up. It’s said he has many supporters in the hip-hop industry such as Cam’ron and DJ Kay Slay waiting to embrace him.
I think I’m Big Meech, Larry Hoover/whipping work, hallelujah/one nation under god/ real niggas getting money from the fucking start- B.M.F. (Blowing Money Fast), (2010) Rick Ross
One time for Big Meech, Larry Hoover/real niggas, hallelujah/this for my real niggas I swear to god/you know its death before dishonor its in my fucking heart- The Real BMF, Death Before Dishonor, (2010) Young Jeezy
For a man who has been in prison since 1973, Larry Hoover’s name has stayed ringing bells. As the imprisoned leader of the Chicago based Gangster Disciples, it is said Larry Hoover holds sway over 15,000 gang members in at least five states. The Gangster Disciples bring in an estimated $100 million annually. As the CEO of the gang, Hoover is a major player and legendary black gangster indeed. But he has had to pay the ultimate price. In addition to the 150-200 year sentence he received in the state for his 1973 murder conviction, the feds sentenced Hoover to six life terms in 1998 for running the GD’s from prison and moved him to more restrictive federal prisons to curtail his influence and communications with the gang. From prison though, King Larry, as he is known, has tried to broaden the horizon of the GD’s by turning the Gangster Disciples into the Growth and Development Nation. Hoover has begun to discourage violence among his followers and has advocated his troops to “go to school, learn trades and develop skills so that we will become strongest in society.” Larry Hoover has been the subject of numerous documentaries and books including being featured on BET’s American Gangster series. He has also done interviews and appeared in many street magazines such as Don Diva and As Is. He is currently housed at ADX Florence in Colorado with his many peers.
And can we please pour some more liqueurs/for Will, Bokeem, Bar, Pappy- my niggaz- Just a Moment, Street’s Disciple (2004) Nas
I’m rich/I still wake up with crime on my mind/Queens nigga/put it down like Pappy Mason in his prime- I Don’t Need ‘Em, The Massacre, (2005) 50 Cent
The combination of Pappy Mason and Larry Davis/Martin and Malcom/this is bigger than the album- The Best of Both Worlds, (2002) Jay-Z
Dedicated to niggas like Fat Cat and Pappy Mason/I do this for the gangsters man- All We Got Is Us, Reunion (2000) Noreaga
I hung around the older crews/while they sling smack to dingbats/they spoke of Fat Cat, that niggas name made bell rings, black- Memory Lane (Sittin’ in Da’ Park) Illmatic, (1994) Nas
New York Streets where killers’ll walk/like Pistol Pete and Pappy Mason/gave the young boys admiration- Get Down, God’s Son (2002) Nas
As a youth, all I ever did was sell crack/I used to idolize Cat/hurt me in my heart to hear that nigga snitched on Pap/how he’d go out like that…po-po under pressure too/they know what they facin’/go against crews like Bebo and killers like Pappy Mason- Ghetto Qu’ran, Guess Who’s Back, (2002) 50 Cent
Yo, black is flashy like Alpo/gun happy like Pappy- 50 Bars of Pleasure, 50 Bars of Pain, Guess Who’s Back (2002) 50 Cent
Fat Cat and Pappy Mason are forever tied together as Queens underworld legends. With Pappy as enforcer, Fat Cat ran a multimillion dollar drug empire centered on the block (150th Street and 107th Street in South Jamaica) that netted as much as $200,000 per week in profit before crack hit New York in 1985. Both figures are enigmas to the streets and hip-hop, but in opposite ways. Pappy was a soldier and warrior in one of the most violent eras in New York City history. Pappy Mason rose above the rest to cement his reputation as one of the most feared men in the five boroughs. He was the crazy guy that crazy guys were scared of. When the crack wars were in full swing and the bodies were dropping by the day Pappy held court in the streets and reigned king. He was eventually taken down after shooting Fat Cat’s parole officer and ordering his crew, the Bebos, to kill police officer Edward Byrne. The killing of the police officer is one of the most infamous crimes from a deadly era and helped usher in America’s War on Drugs and the Mandatory Minimum sentences, which are currently in place. Fat Cat took a different path, though equally dramatic, allegedly working a deal with the feds to protect his mother and sisters from doing any extensive jail time after being sentenced to 25 to life in the state for ordering Pappy to kill his parole officer. The drug lord has been branded a rat and has spent decades in the federal Bureau of Prisons Witsec units before being kicked out in 2006 for refusing to cooperate with the feds regarding Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff and the Murder Inc. case. With his federal sentence complete the feds sent Fat Cat back to the state where he is now awaiting a parole date that will never come due to the parole officer and police officer killings attributed to him. Fat Cat and Pappy have been the subject of many interviews and articles in magazines such as King, Don Diva, Feds and As Is, as Queens culture has flourished through hip-hop. Fat Cat was profiled on BET’s American Gangster series and there have been numerous documentaries on the pair and books like Cop Shot by Mike McClary and Queens Reigns Supreme by Ethan Brown. There is said to be a major motion film in the works titled Officer Down by BET American Gangster series producer Curtis Scoon. Fat Cat is currently in twenty four hour lockdown in the New York State system and Pappy is at ADX Florence with the other black gangster legends.
React, what/who will/bail two mil’/nigga cool still/bet I’ll be gone/before the news will/blast fuse and leave purple/Frank Matthews/perhaps you confuse the concept, black/cash rules- Cannibus
Frank Matthews was the biggest black drug dealer ever. He controlled the heroin trade in the late 1960s and early 1970s from his Brooklyn base, retailing locally and distributing kilos wholesale nationwide, supplying major dealers throughout every region of the country. The North Carolina native was what American Gangster fraud Frank Lucas never was, a major heroin player, who broke the Italian Mafia’s stranglehold on the importation of heroin into the United States. Frank Matthews’ money was so long, the Corsicans of the famed French Connection bypassed the mob and decided to deal directly with him. Matthews put together a $4 million dollar deal with the Corsicans for 400 kilos of heroin and it was on and poppin’ and remember this was in the early 1970s. It’s said at one time Frank Matthews had amassed over $300 million in cash, more money than a lot of countries have ever had. Matthews led a flamboyant lifestyle, wearing large sable mink coats and full length leather suits- he was who the movie Superfly was about and who Frank Lucas wished he was. He took regular trips to Las Vegas to gamble, dropping a quarter million on the tables at a time and caught all the big fights. The DEA lists Frank Matthews as one of the most significant heroin traffickers of all times. Matthews also hosted the first major African American drug dealer summit in Atlanta in 1971, which boasted a who’s who of the major black and Latino dealers throughout the country. Matthews was the first African-American to challenge the mob, confront them directly and come out unscathed. John Gotti was allegedly a contemporary of his and even though his Italian counterparts in crime didn’t like him, they respected him to the fullest. Its alleged Matthews told the mob, “Touch one of my people and I’ll load up cars full of men and guns and go down to Mulberry Street in Little Italy and shoot every wop we see.” He was indicted on drug charges in 1973, arrested and posted a $3 million dollar bond, which he paid in cash. He fled with $20 million dollars and has not been heard of or from since. Numerous books like Easy Money by Donald Goddard and Street Legends Vol. 2 by Seth Ferranti have profiled his story. A number of magazine articles have covered his exploits also. There are currently more books and documentaries planned on his life. Currently he is on the FBI’s, U.S. Marshals and DEA’s Most Wanted fugitive lists, as he has never been found or captured.
No more Big Willie, my game has grown/prefer you call me Wi1liam/i11 in’ for revenues/Rayful Edmond/like channel sevens news/round seven Jews/head dead in the mic/forgetting all I ever knew- Can I Live, Reasonable Doubt (1996) Jay-Z
Rayful Edmond, based in Washington D.C., was credited with helping to make D.C. the murder capital of the world in the 1980s. He kicked the crack era off in D.C., opening an open air drug market on the strip at Morton and Orleans Place in Northwest. He was known for making millions in cash, allegedly earning $300 million annually and sending couriers to L.A. with $3 to $4 million at a time to buy 200 kilo shipments of cocaine through Crip gang members Melvin Butler and Brian “Waterhead Bo” Bennett, who had contacts with the Cali Cartel in Colombia. Rayful eventually became their biggest customer. He developed a Robin Hood reputation in D.C.’s inner-city and was known for his flashy high end Italian designer suits, ready smile and the gorgeous women he kept in abundance around him. He was chauffeured around the city in white Limo’s and hung out with Georgetown Hoya players like Alonzo Mourning, attending all their games and embracing the hood swagger those Hoya teams embodied. Edmond was the king of crack in our nation’s capital but was eventually sentenced to life for his activities, charged with running a continuing criminal enterprise by the feds. Most of his family, including his mother were convicted and sentenced along with him. Rayful was shipped off to federal prison at USP Lewisburg where he continued supplying the Chocolate City with cocaine. Through the Truji1lo-Blanco brothers, sons of Griselda Blanco the godmother of cocaine and part of the Medellin Cartel, Rayful flooded D.C. and the entire east coast with more cocaine than he had when he was on the streets, making the deals right from the cell block with the help of his new neighbors, the Trujillo-Blanco brothers. Instead of deterring him, USP Lewisburg became his new office and base of operations. But Rayful was eventually caught and busted again. He received an additional 30 year sentence on top of his life sentence. But instead of doing his time like a man and gangster of his pedigree Rayful tarnished his legacy by turning government snitch. He was put in the federal Bureau of Prisons Witsec program and as part of his agreement with the feds, (his substantial assistance that came from setting up his homeboys in D.C.), secured the early release of his mother. Rayful later testified against the notorious Kevin Gray, from D.C.’s Murder Inc. crew in the early 2000s to restore visiting privileges with his mother. The mommy’s boy has been profiled in numerous magazines and books. He appeared on 60 Minutes and was profiled on BET’s American Gangster series. Several documentaries of his rise and fall in the game have been released also. Rayful is currently in the federal Bureau of Prison Witsec program, allegedly at FCI Sandstone in Minnesota, serving a life sentence.
*Seth Ferranti is currently incarcerated in the feds also with a release date in 2015. He has served 18 straight years in prison and during his bid he has written and published three books- Prison Stories and Street Legends Vol. 1 and 2 that profile the stories of some of the gangsters featured here. Plus a forthcoming book Infamous Gangsters: Fat Cat, Rayful and Alpo, Legends of the Black Underworld.