Legendary figures of the drug game have been the province of myth and hearsay until the rise of hip-hop, where rappers name check weaponry by style 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 mythological ghetto heroes out of crime lore figures. One of the most lionized drug crews in hip-hop and the streets is the Supreme Team, out of the Southside of Jamaica Queens, New York. Numerous rappers have namedropped the team in verse, including Nas, 50 Cent, Noreaga and Ja Rule.
Some fiends scream about Supreme Team/a Jamaica Queens thing- Nas, Memory Lane (Sittin’ in the Park), Illmatic (1994)
Rap and crack were both born 30 years ago and many of the early rappers ran with the people in the drug world. Often they were from the same neighborhoods. This is the case with the Supreme Team and rappers Curtis Blow, Run DMC and LL Cool J. The early Def Jam artists used to play at the parties for all the big drug lords of the crack era and Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, the founder, namesake and leader of the Supreme Team was among the most infamous. Other rappers grew up on the ensuing folklore. They heard the stories of the drug crews exploits when they were shorties and grew up idolizing gangsters like the Supreme Team. When they started rapping they bestowed iconic status on their heroes by making them a part of hip-hop’s lyrical lore.
When you hear talk of the Southside/you hear talk of the team/see niggas 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- 50 Cent, Ghetto Qur’an, Guess Who’s Back (2002)
The Queens underworld has long captured the imagination of the public with the fusion of ghetto and prison culture unique to gangsta rap. Way before P.Diddy and Jay-Z took hip-hop global, the Supreme Team epitomized the essence of the era, swagger jacking the spirit of hip-hop. They lived a deadly life in the fast lane that has been immortalized in rap music and reverberates to this day. Hip-hop executives and record label honcho’s have clamored to be down with them.
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- Noreaga, All We Got Is Us, Reunion (2000)
Hip-hop artists make no apologies for glorifying the drug game while exploring its often bloody and frequently fatal consequences. When the murder rates were at an all time high and crack cocaine became an epidemic in the inner city, Queens was financially transformed into a “nightlife Mecca” where drug lords reigned king and transferred their capitalistic and materialistic pursuits onto the burgeoning hip-hop culture. The Supreme Team has become Robin Hood-type figures in the process and their legend has impacted the beat, vibe, style and rhythm of rap.
Funds unlimited/backed by my Preme Team crime representatives… you wouldn’t deceive top dog Supreme Team/how and why would you try to fuck us on the real- Ja Rule, Survival of the Illest 1 and 2
The mark left by the Supreme Team and its infamous leader Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff on hip-hop is undeniable. From the fashions to the lyrical content to the style and the gangster element, it’s all there. The swagger originally developed by Muhammad Ali has been passed down to rappers through the legendary drug figures of gangster lore like the Supreme Team. Crack era gangsters like Supreme are heroes to many artists in hip-hop, revered figures and hood stars from the past that set the trends that the rappers have copied and taken international in their music, videos and lifestyles.