The Jam Master Jay homicide is still unsolved five years after the fact. Law enforcement has floated a lot of theories as to what happened but none of them has led to an arrest. One of the theories floated was that Curtis Scoon, an old friend of the Run DMC deejay, had something to do with the murder due to an outstanding debt in a decade old drug deal that went bad. But from the jump Curtis Scoon aka The Snake Charmer has denied and refuted these allegations. “Jay did not owe me a dollar by the time of his death.” Scoon told Newsday. He also asserted that the two hadn’t been in contact in more than four years.
Since then Curtis Scoon’s name has been popping up more. Not in connection with any more crimes but in connection with bringing the stories of the black/Latino underworld and crack era figures to the public. America loves its gangsters and Curtis Scoon has provided a forum to profile these legendary street figures. He began this through his articles in King and Playboy. Then he advanced his quest in the critically acclaimed book, Queen Reign Supreme. And now Scoon has taken the next logical step and started producing shows for BET’s American Gangster. Scoon has been working hard to bring the public the stories that were once buried in the pit of the belly of the beast. He has taken the street legends myths to Hollywood, opening up many doors in the process. We decided to have a little chat with the man who is doing for the black gangster what Martin Scorsese did for the Mafia, catapulting it into popular culture.
What’s your history and where are you from?
CS: I grew up in Queens, New York. Hollis to be exact. As far as my history goes I’ll admit to going hard at whatever I apply myself to. I’ll let the readers interpret that how they see fit.
What’s your background street or entertainment?
CS: I have no convictions but I have an arrest record. I’ve been charged with everything from attempted murder, kidnapping, home invasion, armed robbery, conspiracy and felonious assault. Maybe one or two more I’ve forgotten. I’ve beaten my cases at trial, grand jury, and appellate court. One case I beat in a line up. A cop once told me I was lucky to beat so many cases and my response was, “I consider myself unlucky to be charged wrongly so many times.” My entertainment background is what I’m most proud of. I’m a screenwriter, TV consultant and producer, book contributor and last but not least journalist.
What’s your relationship with Ethan Brown and Queens Reigns Supreme?
CS: I met Ethan years ago when he wanted to interview me for Rolling Stone about my implication in the Jam Master Jay affair. I went with Playboy instead but kept his contact. After Playboy I had an idea for a book that could help me get my movie about Fat Cat made. I was unable to secure the book deal myself so I dug up Ethan’s number and pitched the idea to him. He liked it and made it happen. That book is Queens Reigns Supreme.
In your opinion who are some of the legendeary hustlers/gangsters? Why?
CS: There are so many legendary hustlers and gangsters but obviously some are more legendary than others. It’s my experience that some of the coldest cats you can meet are guys who exist with little fanfare and hype. Every city has their own guy whose names evoke debate and fond recollections. There are guys who I could name but they wouldn’t appreciate it and then there are guys that if I name them someone will have something negative to say so I’ll just say this, when people sit around talking about dudes they’ve never met, whether they’re talking good or bad, chances are the person being discussed fits the criteria.
What’s your relationship with Fat Cat and what’s going on with the movie project?
CS: I didn’t know Cat on the street. His son approached me about writing a movie about him five years ago and arranged for us to talk via phone. At first he was hesitant but I managed to make him comfortable and he opened up. After the call he told his family to cooperate with me fully and we’ve been rocking ever since. I offered him something I knew he needed and he gave me what I wanted in exchange. I gave him the opportunity to tell his side of the story and he gave me his blessing to do the movie. I kept my word and he kept his. He gets no financial reward from this whatsoever. The funny thing is despite being incarcerated for 22 years he never once seemed hurting for cash.
How did you get involved with BET’s American Gangster?
CS: Bill Stephney (StepSun Records) connected me to Nelson George, who is the executive producer of American Gangster. They read Queens Reigns Supreme and were very interested in Fat Cat afterwards. The problem was Ethan doesn’t know Cat and never once corresponded with him so they had to turn to me. After BET reached out to Cat’s family they were redirected to me. I must say this, Cat and his family have dealt with me straight up and down the entire way and on principle alone I gotta reciprocate.
Do you think this black underworld stuff is gonna blow up in Hollywood? Why?
CS: I think there’ll be maybe two more major releases, Fat Cat and Nicky Barnes. After that there’s blockbuster. I say that because Hollywood doesn’t care about how much money or how many cars guys had. Their concern is mass appeal and that is determined by a few things. In Cat’s case it’s his connection through association to the Edward Byrne killing, a crime a president campaigned on. In Nicky’s case, he appeared on the cover of NY Times Magazine under the caption Mr. Untouchable. President Carter saw that and personally demanded his arrest. Those are the type of things that grab mainstreams interest. Everything else is a bunch of ghetto bullshit to them.
It seems the American Gangster craze is everywhere, what’s your take?
CS: I’m glad. A lot of people are coming out the woodworks attacking Frank Lucas but they have to understand. Rat or no rat his story opened doors. They need to slide in before the door shuts instead of wasting time and energy bickering among themselves because no one of importance is listening anyway. Attacks on his credibility are too little too late. He’s outta here and his movie is the highest grossing opening for both Denzel and Russell Crowe. Now the rest of us have to figure out how to use that to our advantage. At least that’s what I’m doing.
How did the whole Jam Master Jay thing affect you?
CS: Naturally, that was a turning point in my life. I had a dream months before Jay’s death where I was told I would have to come out of the fire if I wanted the light to shine on me. I didn’t understand it then but the minute I was accused in that case I knew what I had to do. My man King Tut broke it down for me. He said fire is necessary for purification and anything hardened as steel and ready for combat would have to come through the fire. I stand ready for whatever.
What are you goind now, life wise and project wise?
CS: A funny thing happened on my way to Hollywood… I became a journalist, film and documentary producer, consultant, etc. LOL! Man I’m just grinding. I’m in talks with strong people about the Fat Cat movie. I’m working as a producer on the American Gangster series. Independently producing my own documentaries and still writing. Just received another assignment from KING. I’m truly blessed and appreciative. The heavens have smiled on me and I’m smiling back.
What do you think of the mags like Don Diva, Feds and As Is?
CS: Those mags laid the foundation for all that’s happening now. I hope to get in a position soon to bring them all to the same table and enable them to reap a better share of what they cultivated. It’s only right but only someone like myself would see it that way.
How did the As Is article come about?
CS: I linked up with Shabazz through my good friend Spoon. It was more to respond to some things Prince said in Don Diva pertaining to me that weren’t right and exact. I’ve since heard fro Prince’s brother Wise with a message from Prince. According to Wise, Prince says everything was just one big misunderstanding. I accept that.
CS: I want everyone to know that show business and the streets are not the same. They adhere to different rules which I am not only aware of but well versed in. I separate the two unlike so many people. I say that to say we need clarity out here. Let’s leave the street shit where it belongs. If the streets were so good to any of us we wouldn’t be trying to bumrush show business.