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
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.