A federal task force raided the New York City office of Def Jam imprint Murder Inc. last week as part of an investigation into alleged connections between the label's head, Irv Gotti, and the convicted leader of a drug gang.
At the center of the investigation is Gotti's (born Irving Lorenzo) relationship to Kenneth McGriff, who during the Eighties headed the notorious Supreme Team street gang, which sold crack cocaine in the Jamaica, Queens, neighborhood in New York. McGriff and several other Supreme Team members were arrested in 1988, and he served ten years in prison after a conviction on narcotics charges. According the Los Angeles Times, investigators are looking into the possibility that Gotti funneled money from that drug trafficking activity into what was once a fledgling music career.
Gotti grew up in Hollis, Queens, the same neighborhood as Run-DMC. As a teen, he began working as a DJ, but also made some connections with local drug dealers. "I got lured into the bullshit," he told Rolling Stone last year. "I don't recommend it." By the early-Nineties, he had severed those ties, and after his discovery of, and recording with, rapper Mic Geronimo, he began working an A&R job at TVT Records. He also worked briefly as DJ for an up-and-coming Jay-Z.
Gotti eventually hooked up with Def Jam and in 1996 did production work on Jay-Z's debut, Reasonable Doubt. He was responsible for discovering DMX and Ja Rule, and recorded their first albums, 1998's It's Dark and Hell Is Hot and 1999's Venni Vetti Vicci, respectively. In 1999, he struck a deal with Def Jam to launch Murder Inc., which found its flagship artist last year with Ashanti, whose self-titled debut was one of the year's biggest sellers.
Gotti also released Irv Gotti Presents: The Inc., a various-artists compilation last year, and told Rolling Stone he has plans for his first solo album this year. "I wanna think of a word that sums up heaven and hell, 'cause I think that's my life," he said. "I'm an angel and a devil at the same fuckin' time. So a word that encompasses both is gonna be the name of my album."
McGriff also has ties to Crime Partners, a Murder Inc. film based on the Donald Goines novel. McGriff is credited as a co-writer and producer on the film, which features appearances by Ja Rule, Snoop Dogg and Ice-T.