Iceberg Slim is credited with creating the street-lit genre with his 1967 autobiography Pimp: The Story of My Life, and though he sold over 6 million books before his death in 1992, it was Donald Goines who really ran with the genre. Goines, after learning about Iceberg Slim’s book Pimp while serving time in prison, penned his semi-autobiographical novel Whoreson, which was published in 1972 by Iceberg Slim’s publisher, Holloway House. Goines would then go on to write 17 books, all detailing the sex, drugs, murder, and other elements of the Black underworld, before he was brutally murdered on October 21, 1974, in a style much like you’d read in one of his books.
After Goines’s murder, with the exception of a few books by Iceberg Slim before his 1992 death, the street-lit genre largely remained dormant until around 1999, when Sister Souljah dropped what would become one of the greatest street-lit books of all time, The Coldest Winter Ever. This reignited the street-lit genre, and soon-to-be publishing powerhouse Teri Woods began looking for talent. She would find this talent inside a prison cell in a North Carolina prison, and together they would release one of the greatest street-lit series of all time: Dutch. Soon, the genre would be crowning a new king: North Carolina prisoner Kwame Teague, aka Dutch.
I recently had the opportunity to tap in with Dutch, from my prison cell in California to his in North Carolina, where we discussed the past, present, and future of the game.
Mike: Dutch, my guy, thanks for agreeing to interview with me, I know you don’t do this a lot. Just for those who don’t know, introduce yourself, tell us where you’re from.
Dutch: I’m Kwame Teague, I go by Dutch. I’m from Newark, New Jersey, but I’ve been incarcerated in North Carolina since 1994.
What was life like growing up in Newark, New Jersey?
Growing up in Newark, in the 80s, I saw the transition of the Black community, culture and economy change with the explosion of hip-hop. The youth took over the music, fashion, and identity. The community began to change because of the AIDS epidemic, as well as the Democratic party’s total embrace of identity politics – a game they’ve been using on us ever since. Lastly, the crack game broke us down economically. It also gave us the opportunity to rebuild, we just squandered it.
How’d you end up in North Carolina from New Jersey?
I came to North Carolina primarily to get involved in the music scene. I was managing two rappers and I felt we could get a deal easier in North Carolina than up north in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, because they were already saturated with it. And we did end up getting a deal for my group Brik Flava through Funhouse Records. The record “Bossman” is still on the Internet.
What did you ultimately get locked up for?
Kidnapping and murder.
That’s crazy. My prison has its own channel where they show all kinds of educational and informational stuff. I just saw an interview with a guy named David Jassy. David is from Sweden. He came up in the 80s, started rappin’, and eventually songwriting. About 10 years ago he came to California to write for Britney Spears, and while at a crosswalk, got in a fight, killing a man. He was sentenced to 15-to-Life. He eventually got to San Quentin where they have all kinds of programs. He came up on a keyboard, where he was ultimately granted permission to facilitate a “hip-hop class.” They produced The San Quentin Mixtape Project, which got a distribution deal with Roc Nation. One day, he performed his song “Freedom” at a TED event the prison had, and our governor, Gavin Newsom was in the audience. Governor Newson ultimately pardoned David; he was in Dubai, on business, while his interview was conducted over Zoom. I don’t know the details of your case, and I don’t want to, but it made me think of this – on business for music and getting convicted of murder. But David is out now, doing big things. Point is, it ain’t ever over, you feel me?
Naw, it’s never over. I’m very hopeful about my future. And I didn’t know about David Jassy and The San Quentin Mixtape Project, that’s a dope story.
So how did you get the name Dutch?
The name Dutch just comes from the title of the book. I named it Dutch because I mistakenly thought Dutch was a title of royalty. So, the tagline was: “There Are Princes… There Are Kings… And then there’s Dutch.” People just started calling me Dutch after that and it stuck.
What got you into writing? How and when did it start?
I got started at an early age, when my older sister Sharon taught me how to write movie scripts. I was attracted to the format – it was so clean and organized. Anyone who has seen a movie script will know what I mean. This was in the 80s.
Who or what inspires you when it comes to writing?
Movies. I love movies. Especially old movies like Casablanca and Maltese Falcon. I love the witty dialogue. And Donald Goines has been a big inspiration, too. Iceberg Slim was mean, but Donald was a better storyteller.
What gave you the idea to write the Dutch series?
The idea basically comes from Newark. The Dutch character, his whole swag, is made up of several major players from Newark that I grew up hearing about.
How did you end up connecting with Teri Woods?
I read about her in a Vibe magazine and had my people contact her.
There are a lot of rumors she does foul business. Is this true? Was this your experience?
Without a doubt, Teri and I have had our differences. But no more than what typically goes on in this industry. Whenever your talent is the commodity, the producer/publisher/financer is going to make moves. Like the old saying goes, “You don’t get what you’re worth, you get what you negotiate.” My second deal was better than my first because I learned my worth and how to negotiate. We were all new and just learning at this time. We’re good, though. I’m still in contact with her.
Why do you think Dutch was so successful?
I think it was largely based on timing. It was the beginning of the street-lit game – aside from Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, of course – and me, Teri, and Shannon Holmes were able to capitalize on that by being the pioneers.
Do you think that type of success is still possible today?
I think so, but it would take opening up new markets, like Canada, the UK, Germany, etc., where it’s not so oversaturated. And probably by appealing to this new generation with audio books, an idea I know you want to take to the next level.
What do you think is the major difference between then and now?
The game then was pre social media and pre music streaming, etc. Now everything is on your phone, and there’s so much “right now, at your fingertips” entertainment, it’s harder to get people to read. And because the game is so oversaturated, it’s harder to make a name now.
I feel you. I’ve been in the game for 10 years and I’m barely getting a name in the street-lit market. I’d been gettin’ all my pennies with my how-to and prisoner-info books for prisoners. That’s one market that does still read – prisoners – since they don’t have access to all the same entertainment and Information options that everyone on the outside has.
Absolutely. There’s still some money in these prisons for sure.
So, after Teri, you began publishing your books with DC Book Diva. How’d that come about?
I connected with DC Book Diva – Juanita Short – through a mutual friend. We hit it off immediately because she’s so driven, sincere, and she’s one of the smartest women I know. And she’s gorgeous, too. (Laughs) She is a true diva.
Have you ever tried to get published by a mainstream publishing house that publishes street lit, like St. Martin’s Press, who publishes folks like JaQuavis Coleman?
Naw, I never tried to connect with a mainstream publisher because I believe in building our own. I used to preach to other authors all the time that we need to create our own industry, combine our resources, join forces, etc., but our people are so distrustful of each other, and most haven’t learned to get past that.
How come you never started your own publishing company?
I just never really had the team for that, to be honest.
I recently saw you did a comic book with Seth Ferranti. How’d you connect with Seth?
Seth and I began writing each other when he was in the feds. I reached out to him and we’ve been rocking together ever since.
Yeah, Seth is official. I’d even go as far as to say he kinda pioneered street lit journalism, at least as far as books go. I mean, you had magazines like Don Diva and FEDS, but he took it to the next level with his Street Legend books, books about Supreme, Fat Cat, Rich Porter, etc. I know he’s who got me into the street lit journalism books. And now he’s really doin’ boss shit with his White Boy documentary on STARZ. Shout out to Seth, for sure.
Yeah, Seth is official. He’s doin’ his thing.
What do you think about the comic book game?
The comic book/graphic novel game is wide open, but no one has really mastered it yet. I mean, a gangsta-ass comic book has major potential, but it has to have the right appeal – you gotta know how to push it just right. Seth and I are always kickin’ ideas, but we haven’t initiated anything new yet.
How would you describe your writing style?
I’d say it’s more of a straightforward style. I don’t do the long, drawn out details. I like to skip the parts that bog down the story. I have a cinematic style.
What do you think are your best books?
I’d have to say Dynasty 3 and Dutch 2: Angel’s Revenge. They have the most interesting storylines in my opinion.
What are your top three books written by others?
My favorite writer, hands down, is Al-Saadiq Banks. He brings that Newark shit hard and his stories are realistic. But my favorite three books are Block Party 3 by Al-Saadiq Banks, Cheetah by Missy Jackson, and Flight by Tamara John.
That’s crazy you mention Al-Saadiq because I be tellin’ people the same thing. I write about this in my upcoming book, Jailhouse Publishing. When I had online access, I would watch his videos on IG where he would explain his experiences with the writing game – the struggles he went through, and how he got past it. I tapped in with him and he fucked with me. And just to keep it real, though I had known who he was, of course, I had yet to read one of his books at the time. But he became my favorite street lit author just based on him, you feel me? Based on the authenticity I felt from his videos and tappin’ in with him. I then bought Caught ’em Slippin, and indeed, it didn’t disappoint. It was raw. He really writes that “True 2 Life” shit, you feel me? Shout out to Al-Saadiq Banks.
Yeah, Al-Saadiq Banks is the truth for real.
What is something you’ve learned since writing your first book?
I’ve learned that not everyone can see your vision, so you have to believe in yourself enough to stay committed.
Fa sho. And give us some game: What’s the secret to success, yours or otherwise?
The secret is total commitment to the vision. Stay open-minded and receptive to advice and critique, but be aware enough to see through the hate.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do?
My advice is to organize, network, reflect, implement. Organize your thoughts until they become concrete plans, then network to move the plan forward, gaining allies and resources. Reflect on your progress, your mistakes, your missed opportunities, and them implement the next phase. Then, starting from organization again, repeat.
What’s a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me is, I get up at 4:30 am, shower, collect my thoughts, listen to NPR News, and read the paper. I plot out my day – the calls I need to make, stuff I need to do, etc. Then I go to work as a graphic designer until 11:00 am, and at that time I have lunch, use the phone, and maybe network a little until 12:00, when I go back to work until 3:30. After 3:30 I might use the phone a little more, write, watch the news, then go to bed around 11:00. I wake up the next day and repeat.
There are rumors you’re getting into the movie business. Any truth to this?
Yeah. Dutch is done now. It was to drop December 24th , but got pushed back because of COVID. I didn’t write the script for Dutch one, but I did write the scripts for parts two and three. Movies are my future. I’m looking for actors and actresses who believe in their talent. Get at me!
What is your ultimate goal with writing; movies?
Movies, and I want to own my own TV network and/or streaming service.
I can see it. The folks i Hustle at Street Money magazine just hit me today and said they started an Apple TV channel, Roku channel, and Amazon Fire channel. I gave him your address and he said he sent you a magazine, too. I think you guys will for sure be able to build.
Anyway, good lookin’ on the interview. I’ma get this all type up properly and get it all sent out to everybody. And you already know we’re going to cook somethin’ up. Mike Enemigo, Dutch. Books, movies. What should we tell ’em about that?
Just tell ’em they should be very afraid. (laughs)
About the author: Mike Enemigo is America’s #1 incarcerated author. He specializes in writing about prison, the streets, and How to Hustle & Win Legally. For more articles like this, go to thecellblock.net and subscribe to The Official Blog of The Cell Block, where we provide you raw, uncensored news, entertainment, and resources on the topics of prison and street culture from a true, insider’s perspective, and follow us on social media @mikeenemigo and @thecellblockofficial.