The streets of New York are vicious, as Tupac found out when he got robbed and shot in an event that ignited the East Coast/West Coast rap war which left two hip-hop legends dead. A lot for speculation has taken place over the years but from deep within the belly of the beast, an original Brooklyn gangster, Dexter Isaac, has written a book, From Friends to Enemies, which breaks down what happened, why it happened and who was behind it all. Check out this interview with Gorilla Convict where Dexter Isaac goes in on his life in crime, hip-hop, the streets and the deaths of Tupac and Biggie Smalls.
Why did you decide to write From Friends to Enemies?
On June 15, 2011, I released a statement on allhiphop.com and every media outlet piggy-backed on it. I shocked the world with my revelations and I started getting thousands of letters from people all over the country and around the world asking me questions about Tupac and biggie and about myself. In order to answer all of their questions a friend told me I should write a book and tell my life story. And that’s what I did.
Why did you finally come out and admit your role in the Tupac Quad Studio robbery?
There were false allegations that I needed to clear up pertaining to me being a snitch, made by Jimmy Henchman during a statement he made on May 23, 2011. Seth, my dude, I have never been a snitch and I could not just sit back and let Jimmy or anyone put that jacket on me. Especially after I have been a loyal soldier doing my time then finding out that he was in fact a government informant setting up the homies for the feds so he could maintain his freedom while playing gangster. I used this as a format to expose his rat-ass on a massive level. I hate snitches. They the ones got me in here away from my family. Besides, the statute of limitations was up on the robbery and none of us could be charged for it.
What is the story with Jimmy Henchman? What is going on with his case now?
Jimmy got convicted in 2012 for running a multi-million dollar drug operation. A few of his new so-called friends flipped on him and testified on him before he got the chance to flip on them. He is now waiting to be tried for the murder of Lowell Fletcher AKA Lodi Mack in 2009. Lodi Mack was an associate of 50 and Tony Yayo who had slapped Jimmy’s son upside the head for getting smart with them one day in Manhattan.
Describe life in the streets of Brooklyn when you were coming up?
People may say that all hoods are the same, but I been through a lot of different states and none of them compare to NY state, where I had to always be on point in NY in those other states I could see everything that was coming my way easily. It’s all about making money, staying strap in them streets of Crooklyn. Can’t trust no one because everyone is on some cut-throat shit trying to come up by any means necessary. You earn your respect by bussing your gun or your ass was going to get eaten alive. There is an old school rap song that said it best. NY, NY is a city of dreams where things ain’t always what it seems, you might get fooled if you come from out of town but I’m down by law because I know my way around.
How does hip-hop emulate the streets and vice versa?
Let me take you back for a minute, Seth. In the 80’s many hustlers in the streets of NY had more money, cars, jewelry, and women then the dudes that was rapping and singing. We had the VIP in the clubs and was popping all the bottles. All one had to do was go to clubs like The Fever in the Bronx, or the Roxy’s, Harlem World, Red Parrot, Broadway International, Funhouse in Manhattan, etc., to know who was running shit. What I’m saying is these entertainers wanted to be like us not knowing we was just hustling to feed our families and trying to get out of the hood. My Sun Biggie (RIP) said it best in one of his songs, He was just trying to sell crack in front of the building to feed his daughter. By the way back in the days Lil’ Chris AKA Notorious B.I.G. (RIP) use to sell crack for me on Fulton Avenue in front of building 920. So yes, rappers do be rapping about other people lives. And we the hustlers be wanting to get out of the game and be legit and have all the fly shit these new rappers be having legally that they take for granted. I talk more about this in the book also.
What was it like at the dawn of hip-hop when it was first jumping off?
When hip-hop was first jumping off it was fun. Block parties everywhere in the summer, dudes doing graffiti everywhere doing their artwork on the trains, etc. If two rappers had a beef they handled that shit on the mic, or on wax, no crazy gun play where all their friends be trying to kill each other. A good example was KRS1 and MC Shan. That was a good rap beef. No blood shed.
Describe life in the New York prison system?
Life in the NY prison system was a hell of an experience for me. I got my GED at Clinton Correctional Facility, upstate in Dannemora, NY in 1987. The same facility that the late great rapper (RIP) Tupac Shakur will later do his time at. In the NY state prison there is no fraternizing with the guards. It’s them against us. Point blank. You always got to be ready to buss your gun/knife or razor just like in the streets. There is no faking or games playing. I grew up quickly in there and learned how to man-up. If you’re married you’re allowed a conjugal visit with your wife every 90 days for 48 hours in a trailer. So most dudes is on good behavior for that. Most of the prisons are just a few hours away from the city so most family ties are maintained. I also took some college courses for business management in our state prison at Arthur Kill Correctional in 1992 while working on my associate’s degree. I talked more about some of my experiences in the NY prison system in the book.
Life in the feds sucks. I have been in the penitentiary since I started my time in 1998. My first stop was U.S.P. Leavenworth in Kansas. The same prison they had the Indian Warrior Geronimo in back in the days. In the feds, there is a lot of bullshit prison politics. Everything is gang-related. Even if you never been in a gang just because you’re from a different state you’re labeled as a gang. Like me for example, I’m from NY, so I rep that NYC to the fullest. Everything is about separation in the feds. First they send you thousands of miles away from your family where they can’t afford to come visit you. Then when you get there dudes is beefing about this is their gang table in the kitchen or this their gang cell in the units. If two dudes got a problem their whole crews or city’s get involved instead of just the two of them handling it like men. Then besides 75% of the dudes are rats in the feds. The rats are taking over the federal prison system. They got all the good jobs and breaks from the guards. This shit is crazy.
What are you convicted of and what is your sentence?
I was convicted for the death of a dude by the name of Waleed Hammouda. He was married to my co-defendant. He is reputed to be the cousin of the terrorist Ramzi Yuseff who tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. Somebody shot him twice in the head. When a couple of my so-called friends had gotten themselves in some trouble, they told the feds I did it so they could get themselves out of whatever jam they had gotten into. You would figure if I did something like that I would of gotten a medal of honor, not a life-in-prison sentence. Look how many of them George Bush killed because they fucked with his daddy.
What can people get from reading your book?
My book is not just about Tupac and Biggie. I talked about a few other celebrities that I met and the experiences I shared with them. My life’s history on paper depicts mistakes that I have made throughout my life that I hope can be recognized by some of the young men and women out there in society, thereby preventing them from taking the same path that lead to my reality. Some music video’s hype is just hype. I want them to not get caught up in the illusions of fast money, bling-bling, and candy paint Chevy’s. If I can save one person from coming to prison or the cemetery by them reading my books then I have done my job. Seth, we must all do our part to try to save our youths. They are the future. I just regret that it took prison to open up my eyes.
How do you feel the hip-hop community is going to respond to your book?
I think with a sense of great appreciation from finally discovering the truth. Some will hate it while most will love it and respect me for writing it.
If you could go back in time and change something, what would it be?
I never would have robbed Tupac for a Jimmy Henchman, and maybe Biggie and Tupac and many others would probably still be alive today.