When The War on Drugs Meets the Hip Hop Economy
In this month's Black Electorate Insider Newsletter we are featuring a unique snapshot of the Hip-Hop economy from the standpoint of supply and demand; the five sources of capital (markets, inheritance, savings, government and crime); and RapCOINTELPRO. It is a unique analysis that explains why the seemingly unrelated events of the recent raids on both the Murder Inc. and 'Tha Row record labels; the meteoric mixtape rise of 50 Cent; the resignation from Sony Music of Tommy Mottola; and the unprecedented purchase of Armadale Vodka by Roc-A-Fella Records executives, from the macro standpoint, are all part of one larger picture. To learn how you can become an annual subscriber to the newsletter please visit:
The always interesting Chicago Tribune contributer and In These Times Editor, Salim Muwakkil has written a very enlightening article on the overall impact of Hip-Hop culture in and on the larger American society and its power centers. It is a good read for anyone interested in learning who may be threatened by the various forms of power and influence that Hip-Hop has generated.
I thought of Mr. Muwakkil's article over the past few days in light of the recent raid by the FBI and New York Street Task Force units of Murder Inc.'s offices, which lie within the same building that houses Universal Music and a host of other Hip-Hop record labels and multi-national corporations at 825 Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. Irv Gotti is the head of Murder Inc.
A New York Times article from Jan. 5, 2003 had the following passage:
"The drug dealer, Kenneth McGriff, was known on the streets of Queens as Supreme, and headed a murderous gang called the Supreme Team, which held sway over the crack trade in southeast Queens in the 1980's. Mr. McGriff was arrested in 1988 and convicted on federal narcotics conspiracy charges, and served 10 years in prison.
In the raid early Friday morning, which was first reported in yesterday's editions of The Los Angeles Times, federal agents and police detectives, acting on a search warrant, confiscated computers and documents from Murder Inc.'s offices at 825 Eighth Avenue, the officials said.
Prosecutors in the office of the United States attorney in Brooklyn, Roslynn R. Mauskopf, which is overseeing the investigation, would not comment on the search or the investigation.
But several officials said the police and federal agents were investigating whether Mr. Gotti's music career was fueled with money from Mr. McGriff's drug trafficking. "We're still trying to put them together," one official said. "That's the main question we're asking: did McGriff fund Gotti?"
Of course, under the law, Irv Gotti and Mr. McGriff are innocent until proven guilty. But in the court of public opinion, and in the eyes of the FBI, ATF, New York Police Department they are largely anything but that.
Here is another interesting excerpt from an article about the raid that took place, two months ago, at the offices of 'Tha Row records, run by Suge Knight. Of Mr. Knight, a CNN.com article on November 15, 2002 states: "He has been the target of numerous state and federal investigations into allegations of drug trafficking and money laundering, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office. No charges were filed in those cases, sources said."
Again, Mr. Knight is innocent until proven otherwise. But is he really innocent in the eyes of the Los Angeles Police Department and "state and federal investigators?"
What is this all about? What is behind these recent raids of multi-million dollar establishments, both of which have business relationships with multinational corporations that many researchers say were funded by illegal funds? The music industry is said to be rife with nefarious connections. For years, rumors have swirled around certain relationships to figures maintained by Tommy Mottola. Yet, to the best of our knowledge Sony Music hasn't been raided by the FBI, NYPD or LAPD in an effort to identify sources of funding, or perhaps money laundering that involves music companies through international banks. Why?
When Jam Master Jay was murdered some interesting innuendo was dropped that the murder was somehow "industry-related." NYPD officers who were investigating the murder, when interviewing industry figures, openly pursued this supposedly "industry-related" angle. They particularly focused on a few individuals in particular, even informing several artists that they were targets of violence and murder plots. The New York Police Department was visiting record labels and interviewing artists and executives about the JMJ case, while "revealing" information to these same individuals that their lives were in danger. Numerous industry figures took a variety of dramatic security precautions as a result. What type of atmosphere did this mixture of slander, innuendo, rumors and half-truths create in the Hip-Hop industry, when circulated by law-enforcement? Was the intent more than to just solve a murder?
As we have written before in this now over 10-part series and as the Honorable Minister Farrakhan has been stating openly, in a powerful way, since 1989, the United States Government has planned (and is now executing) a war on youth and street organizations under the guise of a war on drugs. The target of the war is really an entire people, with special emphasis on a few individuals. The larger focus of this war is starting to become apparent in light of President Bush's War on Terrorism. The war on drugs and the war on terrorism have already been merged, yet the vast majority of people don't see it yet. This, even with commercials paid for by the government that have been running since last year's Super Bowl that openly state that people who buy drugs are supporting terrorists.
On a radio interview conducted by Davey D. last fall, I openly, and in more detail, explained how all of this would find its nexus, among Black, Latino and Arab young men, in several cities in the United States Of America. Street organizations, Hip-Hop and the religion of Islam would all be tied together. The Racketeering In Corrupt Organization Act (RICO); the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Patriot Act will be involved. The fulfillment and desire of President Bush for a domestic spying agency will be involved.
You can get a microcosm of most of this in looking at how KillArmy and the 5% Nation Of Islam was linked to the sniper shootings. We wrote about this in Part XI of this series, Hip-Hop Fridays: Rap COPINTELPRO XI: Meet The Press And Tim Russert Connect The Sniper Shootings With Hip-Hop and The 5 Percent Nation Of Islam
Still, as the circumstantial evidence mounts in public, many ignore, don't pay attention, don't understand. Some are in denial. Some Hip-Hop journalists still mock or want to ignore this RapCOINTELPRO series, which has been running now for almost three years. Hopefully, many will now begin to take what we have presented more seriously. The entire RapCointelpro series is available, for free, in The Deeper Look Archives at http://www.blackelectorate.com/search.asp.
Isn't it interesting that in the aftermath of the recent raids on both record labels, on both coasts (is the East - West Coast angle with Murder Inc. and 'Tha Row a coincidence) all that leading figures in the music industry could muster, including the corporate business partners of Suge Knight and Irv Gotti was, "no comment." Will any 100,000 strong street protests involving Hip-Hop fans be planned to highlight the unprecedented nature of the federal government's and law enforcement agencies' targeting of the Hip-Hop music industry? Perhaps, many politically-minded Hip-Hop community members only like to handle certain "safe" subjects, and this is not one of them. Can we expect Hot 97, 107.5 WBLS, and Power 105 in New York to go to the airwaves airing program content that investigates the manner in which prominent artists have not just been arrested and harassed by law enforcement agents, but placed under surveillance and wiretaps by them? Will BET and MTV highlight it? Will The Source and Vibe magazine magazine give cover stories to the issue? Perhaps the entire industry executive establishment at Hip-Hop labels, radio stations, video programs and print media outlets are compromised or even, "complicit" in this. Some or, maybe only a handful.
I think it is time to call the roll within the industry. Where do all of us stand on the real possibility and circumstantial evidence-plus, that Hip-Hop culture, artists, executives and opinion leaders are under attack as part of a larger war being conducted by the United States government? Isn't the question legitimate, by now? How many more arrests, scandals, propaganda pieces, and even deaths will it take before all of the dots are connected?
I will keep writing until we do.
In addition to this we will all have to look in the mirror. The economic condition of our community will be used against us. It has been a double-edged sword. This is especially true in Hip-Hop culture. We have been sued for sampling music - a practice that grew out of the fact that we could not afford musical instruments or the training necessary to play them. We have been arrested for defacing public and private property because our grafitti expression was not confined to murals and art school and painting classes. We have had people die at concerts with deaths uncompensated because we could not afford security or insurance to put on concerts properly. We have followed the principles of mob figures and corrupt corporate organizations rather than the pure science of business to build Hip-Hop related economic activities. We have accepted the pay-rates and standard contracts of an elite cabal of entertainment lawyers in other genres rather than craft a more equitable, innovative, and wealth-creating legal structure, because we didn't know of any reputable Black or Latino lawyers or understand the recording business.
Among these shortcomings we are faced with the ultimate weapon. The reality that some of the Hip-Hop music industry has, at times, received seed capital from money and operations from criminal activities. This reality has been the case in broader music genres and in ethnic groups. The Jewish, Irish, and Italian communities all have a documented history of criminal activity funding "legitimate" or legal business activity in this country. Their illegal seed capital is a mountain compared to a molehill of Black, Latino and Arab crime "syndicates." No street organization today can rival the mob of yesterday (and today).
But Black and Latino Hip-Hop artists have fallen victim to the White supremacy and Black/Latino inferiority complex in their cultural expressions, only helping the conspiracy against them. It was an error and always has been for these artists to glorify mob figures, even taking their names on - in business and artistic ways. It has been an error in judgment for Hip-Hop artists to glorify violence and celebrate guns, and for the Hip-Hop media - the fourth estate and conscience of the culture - to project these images for profit and endorse only a segment of the community for magazine covers and prominent features. I can easily make a sound economic case that the sex-and-violence-formula-as-business plan has meant short-term profits but now, reached a point of diminishing returns and very soon, real bankruptcy.
In the recent BlackElectorate.com chat session, on December 30, 2002, Rev. Al Sharpton said that it is not right for Black artists to engage in commerce by projecting and illustrating our negative reality, becoming wealthy; and at the same time not lift a finger to improve that social reality.
Rev. Sharpton is correct.
Now, the worst of our economic reality is being used as part of a political effort to shut down the most powerful cultural force to emerge among the youth in the last few decades.
Will we watch or fight?
Let's all discuss this:Rap Cointel-Pro Series
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