Rumors and testimonials about the NYPD’s hip-hop taskforce have been a fixture on the rap music scene for the last 10 years. But after a friend of Fabolous’ was killed in a club last November, and Prodigy was convicted on weapons charges (for which he is about to begin a 3 1/2 year sentence), these two rappers have increasingly been at the center of the debate.
Now, with a pair of cover stories under the headline “Cops Vs. Rappers,” weekly New York paper The Village Voice follows around and profiles the lives of these two MCs in the hopes of better understanding their woes with the law. Check out brief excerpts from each story below:
“Prodigy’s 25th Hour” By Laura Checkoway:
Prodigy carries a gun. It’s how he was raised. Though Albert Johnson comes from a long line of influential men—his great-great-grandfather, William Jefferson White, founded Morehouse College in the basement of his Baptist church in Augusta, Georgia; his grandfather was world-famous jazz musician Budd Johnson—it’s his father whom Prodigy looks up to the most. Budd Johnson Jr. had a thing for heroin and guns, and spent much of his life in federal prison for weapons and robbery charges, ultimately dying of AIDS in 1997. “Pops was a very intelligent person, but as smart as he was, this nigga had a criminal gene in his DNA,” Prodigy says. Along with his DNA, Budd passed down his love for guns to his son, who recalls spending afternoons as a boy shooting birds with BB rifles alongside his pops in the park near their home in Lakeview, Long Island.
After the gun was discovered, Prodigy and Alchemist were arrested and interrogated, though each claims he was barely questioned about the weapon. ” ‘We’ll let you go right now if you help us get a bust on 50 Cent,’ ” Prodigy says the police urged him. (50, another Queens product, was famously shot nine times in 2000, rose to superstardom three years later with his multi-platinum debut Get Rich or Die Tryin’, and is believed to be the NYPD’s top hip-hop target because he’s basking in the limelight while linked to several unsolved murders.) ” ‘Help us set him up. Get him to buy some drugs from you. Plant something in his car.’ I was sitting there bugging. They want to bring 50 down because he’s filthy rich, and they’re pissed off because he used to be involved in all kinds of street shit.”
“They asked me all kinds of crazy questions and knew all types of stuff about rap,” Alchemist says. “They were like, ‘Do you know anything about who shot Fabolous? Do you know anything about 50?’ It was just ridiculous.” (Nine days earlier, the Brooklyn rapper Fabolous had been shot in the leg, then stopped by the police for running a red light en route to the hospital and arrested when two unlicensed, loaded guns were found in his Dodge Magnum.)
CLICK HERE to read the full Prodigy story.
“The Fabolous Life” By Chloé A. Hilliard:
Fabolous goes on to explain that although he makes shout-outs to Street Family when he performs, and wears a chain similar to the one found on McKinney, and named his indie label Street Family, and considers the artists signed to it Street Family members, the group calling itself “Street Family” that the cops say has been prowling upscale nightclubs to snatch gold chains is entirely unrelated.
And even if they happen to hail from Brevoort Projects, or turn out to be friends of friends, he certainly shouldn’t be punished for their actions, Fabolous insists. When you come from the ‘hood and have reached a certain level of success, he points out, it isn’t easy to keep tabs on all the people keeping tabs on you.
“Without my name, [Shamel's death] would have never been a newsworthy story,” he says as he cruises around the Flatiron in his Bentley Coupe. “It would have just been another New York City murder. For my sake, I’m not trying to let them devalue me as this so-called head of an organized-crime family that they have accused me and a few friends of. If somebody steals a cookie right now and it’s across the street from my old neighborhood, the headline would read: ‘Street Family Robs Cookie Store.’ ”
Fabolous slips into a booth at the Palms, the famous Times Square steakhouse. He’s without an entourage of any sort, but he is adorned in yellow diamonds. The businessmen ripping into their lunches don’t appear to recognize him. There’s no one to interrupt as he begins to tell the story of taking a bullet in his left thigh on a night in October 2006.
CLICK HERE to read the full Fabolous story.