THIEF! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist

  • Stay tuned for THIEF! book signings, media interviews and other THIEF! events
  • Media Reviews posted periodically
  • Mobwriter comments on true crime events and books

THIEF! character, Vince Eli

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Part II: Supreme, Crack, Hip-hop & 50 Cent

Part II of a 3-part series 
Supreme Team poster (Supreme & Prince)
Mob Speak talks with Seth Ferranti, who Michael Gourdine calls "the most respected name in urban, gangster and prison literature." Writing from prison while serving a 304-month sentence on a drug charge, here are Seth's unexpurgated thoughts on his latest book, The Supreme Team: The Birth of Crack and Hip-hop, Prince's Reign of Terror and the Supreme/50 cent Beef. One can't help but wonder at his nerve to tell it like it is.

MS: Did the fact that Supreme backed you 100% to write this book affect your decision to do it?

SF:  When I was first trying to get back in touch with Supreme, who was being held limbo incommunicado at ADX Florence the BOP's SuperMax, to get him to approve the manuscript it just wasn't happening. The publisher tried to get at him but he wasn't receiving our messages. So to do the right thing I reached out to Prince at USP Allenwood instead, he was second in command of the Supreme Team, so I tried to get approval from him but he didn't want to parlay with me or even address me. He sent Bimmy at me on Facebook with threats and insinuations. Bimmy told me emphatically that he and Prince and other remaining members of the team were not with my book. I sent them some rough drafts of the manuscript but they didn't even want to look at them or address them. So out of respect I shelved the book. A year went by and finally my publisher established communications with Supreme who was in the step down program at ADX and had entered the last level so he could communicate more freely than before. Supreme had us send the manuscript to one of his main dudes to check out so we did and I got my approval that way. See what a lot of these dudes don't know even know, dudes on the team, is that I was on the compound with Supreme at FCI Gilmer in 2004-05 before he was taken back on the Murder Inc. indictment. I talked to him extensively about this entertainment type stuff. I did the Supreme Team story in Don Diva issue #23 with his blessing and worked with Ronald "Tuck" Tucker on that and I did the Supreme story in Don Diva issue #30 in which I used material that I had gotten from Tuck in my interviews with him and from David "Bing" Robinson, another Supreme Teamer I did time with and interviewed while I was at FCI Loretto. Supreme saw all these articles and approve them all. Then I did the chapter on him in Street Legends Vol. 1, which he approved also using a lot of the same material I had gotten from the interviews I conducted. Still when I couldn't get approval I shelved the book and then when we got back in contact with Supreme and he approved it we put it out. The fact that he backed it directly affected my decision to put it out. I wanted to anyhow but the way that I work is I need approval from one of the primaries. I can't help it if these other dudes are not with Preme's decision that is on them.

MS: Anyone ever ask you if being a white dude has helped, hindered or had no affect on who will talk with you?

SF:  No one has ever asked me this but I have found that in a way it has helped me. Because I am an outsider because I am white but at the same time I am an insider because I am in prison. So it works both ways. But I think maybe due to my race and how I have carried myself and the time I am doing it helped a lot of these dudes open up to me and tell me their stories. You have to remember we are talking about dudes that went to trial and lost and to whom it is anemic to talk to the government or media about anything regarding their lives or their crimes. There is that whole code of the streets thing but the way I always explained to them is that I write the story within the street code. I have had dudes tell me all kinds of stuff I could never print. Sometimes the stories just flow out of these dudes and I feel as if I might be the first person hearing it. They tell me some crazy stuff but I have to sort through it and see what is plausible to print because obviously we can't be doing interviews about unsolved murders and stuff like that because I am not even trying to go that route. I do not consider myself an investigative journalist where I am trying to do the police's job for them. But a lot of dudes even those on the team probably think who the fuck is this white boy? But if they check they can find out, my reputation precedes itself. I am not a tough guy or a killer but I am a man of my word and I do what I say I am going to do. There is more than you can say for most people.

MS: I’ve heard that Blacks and Latinos generally mix about as well as wives and hookers. How do you think Supreme managed to meld the two groups?

SF:  I would say Supreme did it by pure strength of will and charisma. Supreme is a very magnetic character. His ability to charm others and make them feel important goes beyond geographical and ethnic boundaries. He is the glue that held the Supreme Team together and made it what it was. It was by his hand that the legacy took shape and thrived. No one else could have had that same effect that he did. By his own strength of will and personality he took two different ethnic groups and molded them together into one unified movement and organization. As one Supreme Team member told me, Supreme is the master of the buildup. He sees people potential and then motivates and inspires them to be all they can be. His leadership abilities are really what have always separated him from other urban and inner-city gangsters. It’s not that he was tough, or a killer, or feared, it was because he was respected the utmost and to this day. His name does not elicit fear it garners respect. Not to say he can't or won't do things to make people fear him but he is more of a diplomatic type of dude who thinks before he speaks. He has a lot of admirable qualities.

MS: It appears that Supreme operated his organization almost as well in prison as out. He even seduced one of the female guards who became his agent. How else did he communicate with the outside?

SF:  I have heard stories of visiting room meetings and coded phone calls and letters. The usual routine but I would say most of all Preme used other team members who visited him to relay his orders and get things in order. Black Just was known as a big conduit for these messages. But I am sure Preme had his way in prison with cell phones and getting unmonitored calls or whatever he wanted. The man manages to get his way more often than not. He has always been the type of person who could communicate how he feels about any given situation and get people on the outside to act accordingly. Just part of what makes him Supreme I believe. It’s almost like an approval kind of thing, a lot of these guys they just wanted his approval for whatever reason, he was almost like a revered or father like figure to a lot of them in some ways. But he would use whatever opportunities presented themselves.
Gerald Prince Miller

MS: Prince who is Supreme’s nephew and second in command of the Supreme Team was feared and respected by all for his extreme violence. Yet Supreme is painted as kind of above it all. Did Supreme need someone else to do the dirty work and Prince naturally filled the role because of his temperament? Or is there some other explanation?

SF:  I would say that Supreme used his nephew in this capacity not only because it was what his nephew was good at, but from my point of view it was what his nephew wanted to do. Supreme and Prince grew up as brothers, but Supreme was the older brother, so Prince was always in Preme's shadow in a way and just maybe to act out in a violent and fearsome manner was his way of stepping out of Preme's shadow and asserting his own identity. Who knows? That could be the truth but until one of them says for sure we will never know. I am not privy to the conversations between them, as far as I know no one is or has been so who knows what they discussed among themselves. It is obvious they were always close and had each other’s back through thick and thin. So was it a plan they devised, a grand scheme? Or was that just how things fell. Until either one of them gives out this information we will never know it will just be speculation. I conjectured a lot on this in the book but that is strictly my opinion or how I have seen things with the information and material I had access too. But from knowing Supreme personally I can say that he is the kind of dude that is above it all, not to say that he can't or won't get his hands dirty. I believe Supreme is the type of dude that will do what he has to when he has to but he doesn't jump to conclusions, he thinks it out and he try's diplomatic means first and always. Where as maybe someone like Prince if you are against him then it’s on. But you have to realize too a lot of this took place when they were young and people change. So who is to say what they think looking back on it all now? I can only say what I think about it as an outsider who has done extensive interviews with team members and who has researched the team exhaustively.

MS: Bing said, “If not for the fed case, we would have retired. We would have flipped that illegal money, opened up stuff that could help our people in the neighborhood.” Isn’t that statement quite a stretch?

SF:  I don't know if it is a stretch. The Rockefellers did it, the Kennedys did it, if not for crack and the mandatory minimum prison sentences enacted by congress that significantly increased the amount of time drug dealers had to do, I don't see why they couldn't have done that. Of course with the murders it would have been hard. The police always get involved when murders are involved. That is the surest way to get busted, start killing people. But remember this was in the crack era and its said and been documented that a lot of the security team members like Puerto Rican Righteous and others were smoking crack. Maybe if the crack era never happened they could have retired and flipped the money. It’s been done before. In fact I like to think that is the American way and the American dream personified. But there would have been a lot of ifs to that equation and from a regular Joe point of view it is quite a stretch. But in the drug dealer’s world and vernacular that is the unobtainable dream that he is striving for- legitimacy from his illicit riches.

MS: A large part of the book details the ruthless violence of Prince. Yet when he’s indicted by the feds, he acts almost as if he’s an innocent victim. For example, he complains that he didn’t do such-and-such a killing (ignoring other murders he did commit), therefore the feds are using him as a scapegoat. What gives?

SF:  I think a lot of these dudes when the tables turn on them they have a persecution complex, like they are Jesus on the cross or something. And to Prince's credit he probably was blamed for a lot of stuff that happened that he didn't do and that he didn't have any control of. Not to say he didn't do stuff in the street. That is what his reputation is built upon. But being on the end where you’re being persecuted and you keep getting indicted and you keep beating charges maybe you do get a kind of God complex. Maybe you do start believing your own rhetoric or maybe you are just trying to play the role and beat the cases again. If it worked once you figure it will work again. Like John Gotti was called the Teflon Don, Prince was known as an untouchable for a while too. He beat a lot of cases in a lot of different ways. So why not play the innocent victim? That is what these mobsters do; they commit crimes and then claim innocence. That is their M.O. So does it really surprise you that Prince tried to do the same thing? Only he knows the real extent of what he did and didn't do and for me that is his cross to bear. He is the one who has to look at himself in the mirror every morning. He is the one doing life in prison. And he is the one paying for crimes that maybe he did commit and for some that maybe he didn't commit. That is the way our system works. Sometimes they don't get you for what you did but they still get you. A perfect example of that is Supreme’s case that he is doing life for now.

Look for Part III, the final entry in this 3-part series, next week. 

No comments: