XXL has been in existence for more than 10 years now. (Perhaps you noticed the sirloin-thick anniversary issue that tilted your local newsstand six months back.) In that time, since September 1997, we’ve put out 99 magazines covering, as the saying goes, hip-hop on a higher level—all the moments that made the music mean so much.
It should be noted, of course, that 1997 is significant for another reason. The death of the Notorious B.I.G. in March of that year closed what stands as the most momentous chapter in hip-hop history: the great Brooklyn MC’s rivalry with his California counterpoint, Tupac Shakur. In that light, the XXL era can be seen as the post–Biggie-Tupac era.
As we watch and wait to learn what will define the future, we cast an eye back at what we’ve witnessed so far. In celebration of our 100th issue, here are the 100 biggest hip-hop moments of our time.
#9: FEDS RAID MURDER INC.
JANUARY 3, 2003. 825 8TH AVE., NEW YORK CITY.
Three days after New Year’s 2003, the last thing anyone up at the Worldwide Plaza building in Midtown Manhattan expected was an early morning raid by the feds. Armed with a search warrant, a swarm of FBI agents and police detectives ransacked the 29th-floor offices of Murder Inc. Records, confiscating employee computers, files and two-way pagers. They were searching for any and all evidence of possible money laundering by label founder Irving “Gotti” Lorenzo.
“I was at my apartment in the city when my phone just started going crazy,” says Gotti of a flood of calls that started when he was still asleep. The feds hit not only the Murder Inc. offices, but also Gotti’s brother Christopher Lorenzo’s apartment, his house in Westchester and his accountant’s home in New Jersey. “They all got hit simultaneously,” he continues. “My first thought was, What the fuck is going on? I didn’t do nothin’ wrong. So I’m like, What are they fuckin’ with me for?”
Authorities believed Gotti had received illicit funds from incarcerated crack kingpin Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff to start Murder Inc. and was funneling drug money through the company. While Gotti never denied knowing McGriff—in fact, the two shared co–executive producer credits on the straight-to-DVD flick Crime Partners—he adamantly refuted claims that he or his company was involved in any illegal activities. Despite the boisterous executive’s proclaimed innocence, the heavy media attention and police presence didn’t sit well with the suits at Murder Inc.’s parent company, Def Jam/Universal. On March 20, two and a half months after the initial raid, Gotti and his entire staff were asked to vacate their wing of the corporate headquarters.
“Universal Music Group had to sever ties with me because of the investigation,” says Gotti, who dropped the “Murder” from his company’s official name and relocated to another building. “They didn’t have nothing to do with me being friends with ’Preme. It was on me that [the feds] raided the office, not anything that they did. When you look at it from a broad scale, I had the United States government running up in 825 Worldwide Plaza. I put them under pressure and forced them to make decisions that they don’t wanna make. They just wanna make decisions on which record is hotter, not decisions on, ‘Yo, what are we doing here? Irv had the government running up in the office.’ So I understood.”
The raid came in the early stages of a nearly three-year-long investigation that hastened the downward spiral of Murder Inc. With flagship artist Ja Rule already embroiled in a heated public battle with rising superstar 50 Cent, “The World’s Most Talented Label” saw its sales plummet, along with its industry stock, as the government tightened its vise. While Gotti and Co. would eventually be exonerated, the whole ordeal served as a wake-up call for hip-hop artists and executives with dubious affiliations. It opened a lot of eyes to the reality that it isn’t just the streets that are watching.—ANSLEM SAMUEL
THIS IS ONLY A PREVIEW!
Read the full “100 Moments” countdown in the 100th issue of XXL, on stands now!