KENNETH MCGRIFF: (CONTINUED)

By Christopher Zoukis

Now that he was out of prison, Supreme had decided to re-invent himself.  He would become a producer of movies. 

While in prison at Talladega, Supreme had had to kill a lot of time.  So he began reading.  His favorite author was Donald Goines, who was an ex-hustler from Detroit.  Goines wrote about the streets, drug trafficking and hustling.  Supreme fell in love with Goines’ novels and wanted to make them into movies.  He thought they’d be bigger hits than the Godfather.  To make this dream a reality, Supreme needed to hook up with the right kind of people – players in the entertainment business.  Irv Gotti / Photo courtesy mtv.com

Hip-hop and Rap were coming on like skyrockets in 1995.  Music labels and producers were on the lookout for new talent.  One such producer was Irv Lorenzo, who was out of Hollis, Queens.  Lorenzo started out as a DJ and a talent scout.  Calling himself DJ Irv, he hooked up with people and began handling up and coming Rappers and Hip-hoppers.  Changing his name to Irv Gotti, he started his own record label, which he christened Murder Inc, the world’s most dangerous record label.  Murder Inc. promoted and produced music that revolved around the gangsta’ life.  Which meant Gotti needed street cred.  He needed to be perceived as the real McCoy – a hustler with ties to the street, drugs and gangland style slayings.

One day Gotti was overseeing the shooting of a video for one of his Rappers, whose name was Cash Money Clicks.  A friend of Gotti’s walked up to him and told him Supreme was there and wanted to say hello.  Gotti couldn’t believe it.  This was just the street cred he needed.  Gotti jumped at the chance.

When he met Supreme, Gotti was stunned.  Ethan Brown, in Queens Reigns Supreme, quoted Gotti’s reaction to the meeting.  “This was the notorious ‘Preme?  This guy was like five-foot-two, this little guy, this little green-eyed motherfucker.  So my first response was, ‘Wow, this is the guy that everybody’s talkin’ about?’”

Gotti didn’t know it but he’d just made the biggest mistake of his life.

Supreme let it be known he was going legit.  He was getting out of the drug game.  He told Gotti about his movie idea.  Gotti, fascinated by Supreme’s status as a ghetto star – a gangsta’ who was a living legend – said he’d like to help out.  Gotti and Supreme started hanging out together.  The Rap and Hip-hop industry sat up and took note.  By riding on Supreme’s coattails, Murder Inc. latched on to big-time street credibility.  Record sales soared. 

With Gotti’s sponsorship, Supreme began presenting himself as a screenwriter and movie producer.  Because of his relationship with Gotti, Supreme hooked up with Chaz ‘Slim’ Williams.  Williams was a former takeover bank robber.  Takeover bank robbers literally shanghaied a bank when they robbed it.  They walked in, pointed a shotgun at everybody in the place, forcing everyone down on the floor.  Then they took the cash and walked out. 

After doing a long stretch in prison, Williams started a company called Black Hand Entertainment.  It was a music production company.  One of the first Hip-hoppers Black Hand signed was 50 Cent. 

Supreme approached Williams about producing a movie.  Williams liked the idea, but didn’t have the money or the connections to pull it off.  So Williams proposed producing a soundtrack for the movie, using Hip-hoppers like 50 Cent and Ja Rule.  If the soundtrack paid off, they could think about doing a movie.  The soundtrack was called Black Gangster and was a big success, selling 150,000 copies.  Only Hollywood didn’t bite.  No one in Hollywood was willing to risk millions of dollars making a movie based on a Hip-hop soundtrack.  So Supreme decided to approach Irv Gotti and Murder Inc. about producing a movie.  Gotti went for it.

Gotti talked to the honchos at Universal Music Group (UMG).  Because of Gotti’s endorsement and the fact that he was a partner in the venture, UMG went for it.  UMG agreed to distribute the soundtrack to the movie, which was to be called Crime Partners.  They gave Supreme $500,000 in advance.  Another $500,000 would be paid over to Supreme when the soundtrack was finished.  Supreme optioned the movie rights to Crime Partners, which was one of Donald Goines’ novels.  Then he formed his own production company, Picture Perfect Entertainment.

There was only one fly in the ointment.  All of Supreme’s talk of going legit was just that – talk.  He couldn’t resist the streets and hustling.  It was in his blood.  He’d been back in the game from day one.  He needed money.  Which meant he did “what he knew best – hustling,” according to Seth Ferranti, author of Street Legends.

Hustling was a one-way street.  Supreme was about to find out he was on it, going the wrong way.