Snitching
Reality Check

Words: David E. Thigpen
Illustration: Dubelyoo

snitching.jpg

Lil’ Kim lies to a grand jury, gets a perjury conviction, and winds up getting a year behind bars, all for refusing to give up two members of her Junior M.A.F.I.A. crew caught in the infamous Hot 97 shoot-out. Cam’ron takes bullets in both arms and is rushed bleeding to a Washington, D.C., emergency room, but once he’s stitched up, he refuses to tell police who shot him. Busta Rhymes sees his bodyguard Israel Ramirez, a close friend, shot dead during a beef at a Brooklyn video shoot, but clams up when the NYPD ask him to help them catch the killer.

On mean streets everywhere from Compton, Calif., to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and even in the world of big-money hip-hop, it’s a commandment that may as well be etched in stone: Don’t snitch. The message is driven home by countless MCs—from The Game’s DVD Stop Snitchin, Stop Lyin to Lil Wayne’s song “Snitch” (“Never let shit about Gs leave ya mouth”) to Scarface’s “Never Snitch” featuring Game and Beanie Sigel. It’s been at the center of some of hip-hop’s longest-running beefs: Ja Rule and Irv Gotti cite an order of protection with 50 Cent’s name on it as proof he snitched about their 2000 studio brawl; Scarface and rival Houstonite Lil Troy have been accusing each other of snitching for over a decade now. Numerous “Stop Snitching” DVDs warn potential informants about what bad things can befall them if they open their mouths. (One featuring Carmelo Anthony brought the rising NBA star a storm of negative press.) And of course, everyone’s seen the bold red logo on the ubiquitous T-shirts.

But Lil’ Kim’s trip to jail and the February murder of Busta’s bodyguard have put the no-snitch code under a spotlight like never before, triggering a debate that’s being hashed out among hip-hop artists, on music Web sites and on the streets. Should Busta cooperate? Was Lil’ Kim smart or stupid to lie in court? And is snitching always bad? It’s a loaded issue—one colored by the historical mistreatment of Black people by the American justice system, and shaded by difficult ethical gray areas. The answers aren’t as clear-cut as you might think.

The Ramirez shooting, which went down during a video shoot outside a Brooklyn soundstage, thrust Busta into a position that no one would envy. Busta faced two choices, neither of them good: honor the code of the streets and refuse to talk, or honor his bodyguard and help police get a trigger-happy knucklehead off the streets. If he refuses to talk, Busta could get subpoenaed and land in jail, putting a very successful recording career on hold. If he does talk, he risks being labeled a snitch and having his record sales plummet anyway as a result. The smoke had hardly cleared from the gunshot that killed Ramirez when Busta started catching criticism. Although he was just one witness among many who may have been close enough to see the killing during the taping of the video for his all-star remix of “Touch It” (Tony Yayo, Swizz Beatz, Lloyd Banks, Missy Elliott and others were also on the scene that night), Busta quickly became the prime focus of the media and police. Yayo, who’d just been paroled, and who some media accounts put at the center of a beef that erupted just before the shooting, immediately had his attorney release a statement to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office saying he wouldn’t voluntarily answer questions and shouldn’t be contacted by the NYPD. The following week, with no arrests and signs that the investigation was stalling, a frustrated New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called an unusual press conference to accuse Busta of hindering the search. “This individual worked for him,” said an angry Kelly. “I’d think he’d be knocking on the door to come in and give us information… Someone is your employee, is murdered in front of you, you’d think he might want to talk to the police. But that hasn’t happened.” Busta also drew the attention of the grieving Ramirez family. Although the rap star agreed to pay for the funeral, the family made it known that what they really want is for the killer to be captured. Discussing a phone conversation she had with Busta a few days after the shooting, Ramirez’s sister Claurice Lara said that he only gave her scant information about what happened that night, and she seemed unsure just how far he would go to get justice for her brother. “I think that he knew something that he wasn’t able to tell me,” she told New York’s Daily News. “But that’s up to him. That’s his conscience. If he’s a God man, like he swore to me he was on the phone, I think he’ll do the right thing.” Weeks passed, and Busta remained silent. A month after the shooting, he turned up onstage at New York radio station Power 105’s Birthday Bash concert at Nassau Coliseum, but said nothing about helping or not helping to catch the killer. Instead, he took a moment to blame the media for making him look, in his words, “real crazy.”

Not surprisingly, many rap artists are loath to speak on the subject. (“I don’t want to get into that one,” said Nelly, laughing. “I watched Carmelo get into that one. I learned from that situation.”) Of the artists that did agree to be interviewed by XXL, most didn’t judge Busta for holding his tongue. “Hey, everybody gotta fight their own battles, ya understand me?” says Cam’ron’s Dipset partner Jim Jones, whose “Baby Girl”/“G’s Up” video prominently features “Stop Snitching” T-shirts. “All I tell people is have a little bit of dignity.” According to UGK rapper Bun B, it’s a “moral choice” whether to snitch or not. “It all goes back to the life that you choose,” he says. Others, including Daz Dillinger and Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil’ Cease, say the best thing for Busta to do is help himself—cooperate, but say nothing. “In Busta’s situation, I’d plead the Fifth,” says Daz. “I mean, all he gotta do is say, I was in the building, but I was nowhere near there. The police doesn’t know who was there and all, do they?” Lil’ Cease, who avoided jail in the Hot 97 case by telling the truth to a grand jury—which isn’t the same as snitching, he says—puts a different spin on that. His advice to Busta is don’t lie and don’t go to jail for something that’s not about you. “It ain’t about keeping it gangsta,” Cease explains. “If it ain’t got nothing to do with you and if you ain’t seen nothing, you ain’t seen nothing.” Cease thinks that stonewalling the police or outright lying will only get you in more trouble, because one way or another the case will get cracked. “You gotta understand there’s gonna be a point where something’s gotta happen. You think a nigga like Busta really wanna go to jail right now? Nigga’s got a hit record out—and you’re gonna go to jail for something you ain’t got nothing to do with?”

Continue reading this feature in the June 2006 issue of XXL (#81).

  • rellmo84

    I think people got things wrong with the no snitching thing.People who have crimes commited agaisnt them have a right to go to police or handle it themself.The whole no snithching is for those hating ass niggaz that see a nigga makn his money get salty and go tell cuz he jealous.The dope game is to glamorized now,people forgot the rules and they think its a ”game”.So when they get caught they tell cuz they dont respect what they got into.We all have choices in life and if u chooze that life u must deal wit the consequenes of that life,but people dont think about that till they facein time.They think its all about rims and bitchez its much deeper than that.So with that sed STOP SNITCHIN PEOPLE!!!!!! B E Z

  • babyboy

    Snitchin is not as bad as ya’ll say, imagine dis case, imagine ur mom has been killed and u knew da dude wat would u do? either u kill him urself or u snitch, and killing someone is not good, so i think u people should be more focuse on wat u say, cuz u not bein smart if u dont snitch u just helpin create more criminals and living dem on the loose, , Help only do’s who really need help, not do’s ones who deserved 2 b punished, another think keep ur heads up, cuz BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL

  • 79cent

    People need to wake up. How many more people have to die or get hurt before we realize that we have to stop this thug mess. Grow up and act like grown men and women and do the right thing. How dare Busta sit on information that might solve the murder of his friend. Damn what if someone shot his mother, would the fool still be acting hard. Real men and women know that you get back in life what you put out. I would never allow someone blood to be on my hands, by keeping it “real”

  • http://www.myspace.com/we_are_militant MILITANT

    OMG! I’ve Never Seen Such Mutiny!! I Dont Have a Problem Bein Cool Wit Police. B’cuz In The event Of Unfortunate Circumstances U’ll Probably Need Them To Say ” Well, He’s Cool, Let Em’ Go”. But As far As doing Their Job For Them, Thats Just a Dead issue for me. 9 times out of 10 the nigga they want u to “Snitch” on Is ya Homie. In My Opinion, People (Especially in The Hood) Be snitchin Out Of Fear. IF your on Parole or Probation and a mutha****** forces you to slap tha s*** out of em’ Please Belive The next nigga or B**** is tellin on you. If You Grown Handle Ya Own Sh!t. “STOP SNITCHIN” -50 Cent

  • http://www.myspace.com/we_are_militant MILITANT

    Disgard the > (-50 Cent )thing

  • Seby

    To baby boy if some1 killed my mother n i knew the dude who murked her i would kill him myself juss to get the satisfaction.

  • ARGO

    fuck snitchin if i was close enough to see who did i’d kill them the same way the killed my man

    NO SNITCHIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • YoungMoney $$$$$

    All Yull bitches who made the comments about people need to grow up and stop the no snitchin thing fuck all yull. Niggas need to stop snitchin dat shit is gay. if a nigga gettin money why da fuck is u worried about what dey doing. Fuck all yull snitches out dere and FUCK DA POLICE TOO GET $$$$$$$ NO SNITCHIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • YoungMoney $$$$$

    Another thing Busta did the wright thing DONT TELL THE BOYS SHIT!!!!

  • zo 4 Show

    well if i wanted to be broke all my life and not snitch like most of these dick heads then i probably would, I feel Bun B approach. I ain’t just gonna snitch out the fucking blue and some dumb shit, but if my boy dead and the spot light is on me and i can’t do nothing about it then you gotta snitch that somebodys life where talking about. It ain’t even snitching because once you cross the line like that then it just about fucking up the other person any way possible. And if some 1 killed my mom then i would kill that mother fucker whole family.

  • brooklyn70_35

    What many people fail to see is that the senseless violence that has become a part of hip-hop culture must stop. If you think that the goverment will hesitate to shut it all down then your mistaken. This is much bigger than any one rapper or crew. When rappers start realizing that a trip to jail might end a career(Just ask Shine) they might change their tune. Now let’s look at Lil Kim… Did going to jail help her last album? Hell’s no. Busta? Well he is gonna be

  • http://yahoo.com mike

    Well if there should be no snitchin,then why does everybody want biggies killer to come foward?

  • http://xxlmag.com DLoc

    snitchin is bull shit. all u niggaz that is snitchin need to close ya mouth. i think that its bull shit that niggaz is sayin that 50 cent is a snitch. Ja rule is a faggot. He just talks shit bout 50 cuz 50 beat his ass and cuz 50 has better albums.every snitch needs to stop snitchin

  • 25toLife

    under the circumstances busta should cooperate.his bodyguard was murdered not missy’s or yayo’s or anyone elses.
    snitching should depend on how close the person is to you.for all who said they would kill the person who took the life of their mother, how do you know someone wouldn’t snitch on you?
    would killing this person be worth spending your life in jail? if you are a bystander and witness a murder of someone totally unrelated to you I agree you should mind your business. if you witness the murder of a friend or loved one you should cooperate.money and record sales shoud have nothing to do with it.it’s the decent thing to do.

  • babyboy

    if someone kill me and my friends didnt snitch, they’re not real friends, if someone kills somebody i know, shit i dont think twice, either a torture ur ass, or a fuck u up and a still snitch on u, no snitchin, who da fuck is u no snitchin, fuck dat, i wont snitch on hate, if u makin ur money, dats a diferent story, dats a mind ur bisnex situation, but u a killer fuck u, jail wit ur azz

  • brandon

    All these bitch niggas is snitchin an it aint cool that shit just aint RIGHT
    If some body done you wrong go after they ass right away full speed ahead if not stop bitchin. Keep yo head up

  • http://xxlmag.com DLoc

    the fuck is wrong wit u niggaz. truthfully if i was kickin it wit some of my niggaz and I got bucked right before I died I would tell them not to snitch.snitchin is fuckin stupid.50 aint no fuckin snitch the real snitch is Fag Budden. on games song buddens he said that budden snitched on him. all yall pussies that is snitchin close ya fuckin mouth befo a nigga buck yo stupid ass down. rollin 50 crips for life mutha fuckas

  • http://xxlmag.com DLoc

    IF u was here id kill yall stupid asses for snitchin. stop the fuckin snitchin fuck the law and fuck the cops

  • ROB G

    FUCK HELPING THE COPS
    WHEN THE LAST TIME 5 0 EVER DID ANYTHING FOR ME EXCEPT TRY TO CATCH ME UP
    FUCK THA POLICE
    STOP SNITCHING

  • LavishLusciousness

    I think there is a difference b-tween cooperating and snitching. If you cooperate with the laws then there is no harm done, but snitching, to me, is tellin all of some body elses business just to be spiteful, so take a hint from ol ‘cease and be adult about your situation..

  • Michelle

    In the case of Lil’ Cease, he did the right thing. He was on stand and there was a video tape, for God’s sake. All he did was identify who was on the tape. He used COMMON SENSE. Lil’ Kim was the one who suffered. Cease is running free while her ass is sitting in a cell. It damn sure didn’t help her album sells either. I have more respect for Lil’ Cease than I ever will for Lil’ Kim. Busta’s bodyguard/best friend was murdered and he’s not saying anything. There were how many people at that video shoot and who’s been arrested so far? Either Busta is trying to secure a “street” reputation to boost his album sales, he’s fearful of being ridiculed or he’s fearful of retaliation or he believes the police won’t do anything. Whatever the case may be, he should tell Ramirez’s family and let them take it from there.

    A ‘snitch’ is somebody who tells on somebody else to save his own ass or to be spiteful (like Lavishlusciousness said). If your mother, CHILD, brother or sister or your GRANDMOTHER -for God’s sake- was murdered and somebody knew who did it but wouldn’t say anything to the police or YOU for fear of retaliation or fear of being ridiculed, what would you do? Wouldn’t you want to know?

  • TYSON

    BROTHERS,ITS VERY DISTURBING TO HEAR SOME OF THE OBVIOUSLY UNTHOUGHT OUT RESPONSES YOU’VE GIVEN!LIKE BOTH OF THE WOMEN HAVE FORESTATED,YOUR DEFINITIONS OF A “SNITCH” NEEDS TO BE REEVALUATED & EDITED!!UNLESS ONE STANDS TO PERSONALLY GAIN FROM THE INFO,IT’S NOT SNITCHING!! IT’S CALLED BEING MORALLY SOUND & CIVIL!PROMOTION OF SENSELESS KILLING & WRAPPING IT IN “GANGSTA” IS FOOLISH & IGNORANT!! WHEN THE SHOE IS ON YOUR FEET..WHAT WOULD YOU DO? THINK BROTHERS!!!THIS IS BIGGER THAN EACH OF US INDIVIDUALLY, BUT COLLECTIVELY,WOW, WE COULD TEAR DOWN THE SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR THAT HAVE BEEN IMPLANTED IN OUR BEINGS!TRUTHFULLY, I DONT KNOW ANYONE WHO HAS EVER LOOKED @ BUSTA AS HARD OR GANGSTA!!HE HAS EVERYTHING TO GAIN BY COMING FORTH WITH INFO THAT COULD POSSIBLY LEAD TO THE CAPTURE & PUNISHMENT OF THE KILLER.LAST BUT NOT LEAST, WHY IS IT WHEN WE [BLACK MEN]TALK ABOUT GETTING MONEY,IT HAS TO PERTAIN TO DRUGS!!! GET YOUR MINDS RIGHT..WE CAN BUILD & OWN !!

  • Big Sau

    50 aint a rat because he has too many hood niggas in his camp.FUCK THE PEOPLES FOR LIFE

  • Po

    FREEEEEE SHYNEEEEEEEE
    FUCKKKKKKKKK PUFFYYYYYYYY
    FAGGOT-ASS NIGGA
    BITCH NIGGA
    SNITCHED ON SHYNEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

  • yung bino

    50 snitch,lil cease snitch & anyone who does not think so is a snitch too! this is a growing trend in the hip-hop world there are only a few real niggas in the game right now(scarface,nas,dip-set,snoop,dame dash,beanie)people just need to keep they mouth shut! no matter the situation i would never send my worst enemy to jail from snitching busta you a stand up dude it is not about respect in the industry or in the media you were in the streets before this rapshit! thank you for being real to your roots the streets! alot of that is missing right now he was your bodyguard & friend & people do not seem to understand what you are gouing through much love one!

  • 9th ward ambassador

    I think the so called “STOP SNITCHING” code is not something that should be promoted or glamourized. If someone who chose to lead a criminal lifestyle gets told on by someone in their circle, or someone around them because they have obtained more than them. Its a natural reaction to be mad, but at the same time that person should always remember there is “NO HONOR AMONG THIEVES”. We should realize also that protecting those who have commited cold blooded, senseless acts of violence only makes the world a much more dangerous place to live for our families. And being from where i’m from i could have easily posted something very ignorant on this matter.But i chose to use common sense and say something righteous. On that note i am not with it or completely against it. I just think it isnt something that should be promoted just because these people think its a cool fashion statement. When all is said and done ignorance will not prevail.peace.

  • jd

    white people hate bitch ass snitches and cops too

  • velli504

    G-CODE
    RULE#1 NO SNITCHING (THEM GOVERNMENT PEOPLE AINT TRYN TO HELP U) DO THE CRIME DO UR TIME FAKE NIGGA

  • drethegreat

    The whole “Stop Snitchin” code was created by the same folks who want you to snitch. It’s funny that law enforcement is allowed to pump the same crack & hay in the hood recycle it & expect folks to tell on each other. (1) the product generates moeny in an area that was no longer designed to generate money according to social engineering (2)the people who want you to snitch know that it will bring negative feedback & that normally means less people to deal with which feeds 3 (3) less people the easier it is to take over neighborhoods move people out by gentrification. Personally I couldn’t hate on somebody who snitched if a close family member who had nothing to do with the streets got hurt or killed on the other hand when comes to underground business transactions that a horse of a different color.

  • Jodoo

    Ah, you people are just stupid!

  • Jodoo

    YoYoYo-
    Just stupid.

  • Jodoo

    I know instead of telling the police, why don’t we all take the law into our own hands and everyone kill each other…real smart-morons.

  • Dtrg

    snitchin bout the wrong nigga can get you killed. snitchin bout a nigga can get you hated. if you in the game u lose business cause you can’t be trusted

  • DTRG

    Yo Yo Yo Sorry bout that.

  • DTRG

    Ah you all are kinda ass backward.

  • killa black

    I don’t snitch. Someone once killed my mother and cat but I didn’t tell. I mean what is the point, peeps should be free to kill who and when they want. Amen.