I wanna start out by saying I am not a writer. My good friend Gus Wenner asked me to write this because of an Instagram post I made about the Philadelphia Eagles releasing wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Although I am not a professional writer, everything that I say will come from the heart.
So I woke up in my hotel room this morning and do what I normally do: turn on ESPN. And when I did that, I was in total shock to see that the Philadelphia Eagles released their Pro Bowl receiver, DeSean Jackson. At first I could care less. But as I continued to watch, I was brought back to a place in my life.
On ESPN, the announcers were explaining that DeSean Jackson, who was coming off of his best season as an Eagle, was getting released because of his ties and possible affiliation with gang members in L.A. I was starting to get pissed! Why? Because I went through a federal indictment because I was friends with someone from where I grew up. I was found not guilty of money laundering charges, but it fucked my whole life up. Note: I am the founder of Murder Inc Records, home to Ja Rule, Ashanti, Lloyd, Charli Baltimore, Cadillac Tah, Vita, Blackchild and pop singer Vanessa Carlton. I also helped start Jay Z and Roc-A-Fella Records and DMX and Ruff Ryders Records. I was an A&R Director for Def Jam Records. And I produced songs for Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Bilge, Nas, Fat Joe, Method Man, Bobby Brown and a lot more. So I was one of the biggest names in hip-hop. And the government raided my home, offices, accountant's and brothers' homes and basically did all of this because I was friends with Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, who was a big drug dealer in the Eighties.
OK. Now that I got that out the way, I can get back to the correlation between me and DeSean. The Eagles said part of why they released DeSean was because of his "gang" affiliation, which DeSean has vehemently denied. But here are my thoughts on this, which will probably go against the thoughts of a lot of people who are not from where we are from.
Both me and DeSean grew up in the "hood." Which means around black people who probably didn't have a lot of money. My parents, who I love more than anything, provided my whole family with a lot of love. They raised all of their children, eight of us, to be great upstanding people. Which we all are. I am the youngest of eight and the only one who did not go to college — and I made all the money. Go figure. Haha. The one thing that my parents couldn't provide for us was money. I grew up with two outfits that I had to wear to school. I would get ridiculed a lot because of it. All good. Not what this is about. I'm painting a picture of what my money situation was.
I grew up as a teenager in the Eighties in Hollis, Queens, which was a part of the crack epidemic. Jamaica, Queens, was nothing but drug dealers. Even the good kids sold drugs. Everyone sold drugs. Everyone. So if you grew up in that neighborhood, chances are your friends were drug dealers. You didn't really have a choice. Unless you didn't want any friends.
I didn't grow up with DeSean. But I can bet the neighborhood in which he grew up was similar. With gang members. There is no way to really escape it. It's just a part of your upbringing. And these drug dealers or gang members become part of your family. They knew my mom and dad. They knew all my brothers and sisters. They were in my basement while I used to make my mixtapes and sell those mixtapes to those same drug dealers. And just like any other friendship you might build with a person, there is love there with these people. The crazy thing is this: Society probably calls these people the scum of the earth. The drug dealers. Killers. Monsters. Animals. But I call them my friends! Weird, right? But I know these people. I have been friends with them since I was a 12, 13, 14 years old. I know in their hearts that they would love a different life, but they are trapped. And they know the world don't love them or give a fuck about them.
So fast forward to me and DeSean. I make it to be one of the biggest music executives and producers. DeSean goes on to be one of the top wide receivers in the NFL. What should we do? Should we turn our backs on the same people who knew us for the majority of our lives? People we call family? People who love us? Even if we didn't make it they would still be with us and love us! This is the tricky question. And this is what got me going watching Ron Jaworski assassinate DeSean Jackson's character. It's fucked up! And I understand Ron's mindset, which is the mindset of America: "You made it, you dumb nigga. You're making 10 million a year, you dumb nigga. Get rid of your friends from the hood, you dumb nigga. They gonna bring you down, you dumb nigga. You're gonna end up right back in the hood, you dumb nigga." I get it! Trust me I do!
When I was going to trial, one of the things the prosecution brought up was the fact I employed and hired so many people with criminal records. These guys were all the guys I grew up with in my hood that I loved and wanted to help. When asked, I said I don't think Google, Apple, Microsoft or any other major company was gonna give my guys a shot at life, so why can't I? I actually care about my people in the hood. Weird, right? To actually give a fuck about the people you grew up with. LOL. I tried with all my heart to show them there is another way to live life. The government taught me that I can't do that. They are showing DeSean right now that you better leave them niggas in the gutter or you will join them. Crazy!
I wanna touch on another man. Not me or DeSean. I wanna touch on someone who is an undisputable icon of America: Frank Sinatra. I am someone who loves Frankie Baby! And yes, when I'm playing cards, I sometimes pump up my Frankie Baby playlist. His voice was so ill. Timeless. I love it. And Frankie was a Man's Man! The ultimate stand-up guy! Had his Rat Pack. I love Frank Sinatra. And people, Frankie had deep, deep ties with the mafia. Organized crime. Everyone knows this. This isn't new info, right? Vegas was built by organized crime. Gangsters. Killers. Monsters. And they worked with Frankie Baby hand in hand to bring all those talented actors, comedians, singers to do shows in Vegas. I always wondered why Frankie Baby got the ultimate pass and never got fucked with, with his affiliation to all those gangsters. I wonder why? Oh shit. My bad. He was white! Silly me!
I do not want to come off like a radical black man. I'm cool with the world. And I love the effect that hip-hop is having on the world in making everyone understand each other a little better. Again, I did this for my guy, Gus. I wrote this because I hope someone reads it and maybe has a better understanding of us entertainers and athletes who grow up in the "hood." We want the same things everyone else wants, man: to be happy. Nobody wants to sell drugs or be a gang banger. Ask the toughest killer if he could have a bunch of money with a beautiful wife and kids and be totally legit. He chooses that every time. And when guys like me and DeSean make it, we might wanna show these people, hey, there is a different way.
PS. DeSean: all eyes on you now! Be smart! But shine! Remember this day! And remember what they put you through! And when you step on that field, Ooooooookillem!!! And anyone from your hood that reads this, love your nigga. And step back and let him shine! I know y'all feel me!