Coming to you straight out of the penitentiary, street lit author and Center Park Bloods member, Clifford ‘Spud’ Johnson. He’s been in the feds since 1999 doing a 210 month sentence and instead of falling further into the gangbanging cycle he decided to put pen to paper and start writing urban novels. That doesn’t mean that he has forgotten the life that led him to prison, just that now, as an older and wiser second generation gangbanger, he wants to do something positive and make his mark in the literary world. But don’t take our word for it. Take his. Gorilla Convict introduces Clifford ‘Spud’ Johnson and his thoughts on his new career and old lifestyle.
When and why did you start writing and how many books do you have out?
I started writing back in 2000 after I was sentenced to 210 months in federal prison. I knew that I was going to have to do something constructive with my time or I would lose my mind. Not only that, I was determined to make something of myself so my two sons could be proud of me. I wanted to add more to my name than just another gangbanger/drug dealer. I have three books out right now. Kalifornia Luv, Gangsta Twist & Gangsta Twist 2. I’m currently in contract negotiations with Carl Weber/Urban books for my next 2 books, He Don’t Play Fair and the sequel She Don’t Play fair, which will be out March 2013.
How did you get your work published and what publishers are you working with?
My first move in this business was selling two of my books to Teri Woods in 2005. I was so excited that an author of her status wanted to deal with me that I knew then I could be successful in this business. Two years after that deal I met Jimmy Da Saint (Author of Black Scarface) in FCI Texarkana and he introduced me to Karen Mitchell of Tru Life Publishing, a now defunct publishing company out the NY. I sent Karen my manuscript for Kalifornia Luv and she loved it so we worked a deal from there. My next deal was for Gangsta Twist and Gangsta Twist 2 with Carl Weber and that’s who I’m currently let put out my work.
How have you used Facebook and social media to promote your work?
Thanks to my wife Lesli Williams-Johnson, she has been able to maintain my Facebook page as well as promote me through various different ways. She set up the website for Lucki Read Publishing (www.luckiread.com) and for my Goodreads Author page. Helping to spread the word that I’m a very serious author and here to help elevate this urban fiction genre. Each book that comes out next will outdo the last one. Believe that!
Give us a little background on how you are and where you are at and how you ended up there?
I’m originally from Detroit, Michigan but I was raised in Inglewood, California. I’m a second generation Damu (Blood) and I was affiliated heavily with those wicked streets of Inglewood growing up as a teenager. I got caught up in the gang lifestyle and drug dealing (crack) in the early 80s. That in turn made me very aggressive towards getting money. Hungry for real. I ended up in Oklahoma City in 1992 selling drugs and made that city my home after meeting Lesli who gave birth to my two sons. I was arrested by the FBI in 1999 and received a 210 month sentence for distribution of 13.5 kilos of crack.
Tell us about your set and what it was like coming up in Inglewood?
I’m from 111 Street Center Park Bloods, we were originally a branch of the Inglewood Family Gangsters (IFG) until our O/G homies decided we should stand on our own and make the name CPB mean something without the help of our originators. Like I mentioned earlier Inglewood has always been one wicked spot and it has always been dominated by Damus. We ran our city and our enemies deadly in their own right they never really stood a chance against us and how we moved. My set, CPB is one of the smaller sets in Inglewood yet still one of the most dangerous. We’ve had wars over the years that people automatically assumed we would be crushed and were shocked when the exact opposite occurred. I love my hood and I will forever be linked to the set but my life is headed in a different direction now. I’m all about trying to better my situation so I can make my sons proud of me because I let them down by not being there for them. That’s something I promised myself I would always do when I had children of my own and I failed. I hurt them and in turn hurt myself. I’m making strong moves now and breathing for myself and my sons.
I like to say all of my work is fact based fiction, because in Kalifornia Luv I mixed a lot of facts from my life in Inglewood with some good fiction. So yes, I do add some of my past experiences into my work. Either I done it, saw it, or know someone who done some wicked things, so when it’s needed I add it to my work to give the story that realism to make the readers really feel it.
Being from LA what do you think of all the dudes claiming Bloods from these other parts?
At one point in my life I loved it. I still embrace the outta town homies because they rep what I have been with since I was a kid. But there’s another side of me that feels sorry that this way of life has filtered into other states causing the same type of pain and anguish that we have caused families for so many decades in the west coast. I’m guilty of helping spread this Damuism into other states as well, something that I am no longer proud of. But it is what it is and as far as I’m concerned Blood is Blood no matter where you are from. If you love this red flag and respect it as I have all my life then you are my homeboy. Period. I know a lot of other homies from the west who don’t share these feelings with me, but that’s how I get down, to each his own.
Have you met a lot of your brothers in the system and what do you think of them or who are the notable or stand up ones you have met?
That’s a good question because for real I’ve met some outta town Damus that are more courageous and down than some of the homies from the west! Tone from QSB outta Abilene, Texas (FCI Three rivers) is a stand up dude and a stone cold rider and I hold him in the highest regards for his continued dedication and loyalty. Treez from nine Trey Gangsta outta Brooklyn is a fool with it as well. There’s way too many names for me to shout out just know that there are a whole lot of Damus from the south, east and Midwest that are reppin’ this Damu thang seriously and I applaud them all for a job well done. There are fakes as well and those types gets nothing from me at all, there will always be weenie niggas no matter where you’re from.
It’s funny to me for real because now it seems so popular to be a Damu. I remember back when everyone was heavy on the Crip tip. The homies Snoop Dogg, Coolio, WC, and all of the other Crip rappers had everyone loving the blue flag. Now that it flipped and you got rappers like the homies Mack 10, The Game, Lil Weezy, Baby, Jim Jones, Tech9 and Mitchy Slick doing they thang there’s a lot of hating. Why though? Everyone deserves their turn! HAHAHAHA but seriously I think it’s overrated and kind of fucked up for real. These men need to realize what they’re promoting. They’re promoting death and violence to our youth for real. Being a Blood or Crip ain’t cool. Some kid that don’t know any better will take certain words said by their favorite rapper and go out and do some goofy shit thinking that’s the business and that’s tragic. I am what I am and done what I done and I am in no way proud of any of that negativity any longer. That’s why I’m trying to enter this publishing business as well as continue to keep writing and putting out some good work so the masses can see that it’s not all about red and blue with me anymore. More important, so the youngsters out there in the gang life can see that there is a better way and you don’t have to stay caught up in that foolishness. Stay in school, be someone your mom can be proud of. That’s the business; all that other stuff is wack! Believe that!
What advice do you have for your fellow authors or any of your fellow brothers?
To my brothers of the Damu world, stay true to what you believe in; respect yourself and your comrades always! If you’re with it then be with it totally don’t be faking because all you will do is get yourself hurt and others as well. To my fellow authors, let’s stretch our minds and create some good fiction. Let’s shut up all of the haters of the urban genre who think can only write about sex, murder and bullshit. Create some good storylines and change the game for real. Let’s use this stage we’re on to teach the youth as well as entertain so we can hopefully steer someone to do right instead of doing the goofy. I’ve recently finished reading Street Legends Vol. 1, Street Legends Vol. 2, O/G’s and The Supreme team and what I like most about those books is that they were about some real men who stood tall through everything they did whether right or wrong. When they got caught up they took what they got without snitching, I respect that. But what touched me the most is how each man has stated the regrets and how they wish they would have did it another way. If they could have the chance to do it over I’m sure they would do a lot of things totally different. These were some cold blooded killers. The reason it touched me so deeply is because I do have another chance, I don’t have five life sentences or the death penalty. I have a chance to get out there and do right by my sons, my mother and my community. I have the chance to give some good back to kind of make up for all the bad I brought to Inglewood. I have another chance and I am going to make the best of this opportunity, so get ready for the Spud world because I’ve just gotten started! I would like to end this by sending a special shout out to my homies back home in the Centers. Much love always to O/G E-Mack, Spaghetti, Big Tako you have had the biggest impact on my life from since I was 9 years old. You started it all for that we will forever be linked as not only homeboys but brothers and friends.