‘I never prayed to God/
I prayed to Gotti/
That’s right its wicked/
That’s life I live it/
Ain’t asking for forgiveness for my sins…’
(Jay-Z: ‘D’Evils’: Reasonable Doubt: 1996)
The Retro Edition takes an overdue turn to the Streets as we revisit Part 3 of the “Paid In Full’ series which looked at the story of 1980s Harlem Legends ‘AZ’, ‘Alpo’ and ‘Rich Porter’ and how their turn to drug dealing influenced Hip Hop Culture today, but also ultimately how it represented a tragic cultural decline.
A decline that marked a shift in Harlem and perhaps African-American Consciousness from the positive Cultural explorations of the ‘Harlem Renaissance’ to the negative pre-occupations and consequences of a vibrant but catastrophic ‘Crack Economy’……Peep it:
We’d looked at how Harlem started as a Haven for former Slaves from the South, leading to a cultural explosion in the form of the Harlem Renaissance. Things went downhill however, as the Hustler era dawned with the rise of Bumpy Johnson, Pee Wee Kirkland, Nicky Barnes and Frank Lucas amongst others.
From then on, Harlem shifted from being a Cultural Mecca to being a drug den. With the imprisonment and death of the first wave of Hustlers, the ‘Crack Era’ arrived.
Crack hit like a Hurricane, and the above lines from Jay-Z’s ‘D’Evils’ basically sum up the mind-state it created amongst the youth. One story used to illustrate this well is that of the 80s Hustler Trio of AZ, Alpo and Rich Porter portrayed cinematically in the popular film ‘Paid in Full’. The story of how 3 young men barely in their 20s became Millionaires and ‘Role Models’ in their community is indeed one of the best illustrations of the tragedy of the times.
In the end, it ended in friend killing friend, AZ almost losing his life during a robbery for cash from another disgruntled dealer, and with Alpo doing major Prison time and ‘snitching’ to get time shaved off his sentence. In addition, Rich Porter’s younger brother, an innocent Pre-Adolescent Boy was murdered for ransom by his own Uncle, who out of jealousy, wanted a share of Rich Porter’s ‘Cake’.
After surviving being shot at point-blank range, AZ chose to leave the game, and he’s become a remorseful ‘Street Prophet’ of sorts, authoring books and making music about his experience in a bid to steer the youth away from the toxic culture of drug dealing.
Into the fray, entered Hip Hop, born out of the angst of the era, and a reflection of the times. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5’s bold lyrics….’Broken glass everywhere!!!’ in 1982’s ‘The Message’ were a testament to the Crack pipes littering the Apartment Blocks and neighbourhood at the time.
Puff Daddy would sample it in the 90s for ‘Cant Nobody Hold Me Down’, a very blinged out version compared to the original which was more socially conscious. This in itself would mark the beginning of a trend to a more Bling driven and fantasy Thug Culture that permeates Hip Hop today which has progressively distanced the audience from the true realities of the Block.
For more info showing how the drug game is ‘Real Like Steel’, we’ve got links to the classic FEDS Magazine Alpo Prison Interview, as well as the Documentaries ‘Game Over’, ‘The Rich Porter Story’, the ‘Alpo Story’ as well as AZ’s FEDS Magazine Audio Phone Interview about his experiences in the game on our YouTube Channel in the ‘Music, Sports & Culture’ Playlist.
Peep real game from the source that was actually involved and not Rappers either exaggerating their involvement or just plain fabricating it.
We couldnt borrow the phrase ‘Paid in Full’ and not give due credit to Eric B & Rakim, the Hip Hop duo whose classic 1987 Album ‘Paid in Full’ was dropped right in the middle of the ‘Crack era’ but managed to not only be authentically street but also intelligent and Artistic.
Rakim’s Bars will still rip any MCs today so respect MUST be paid to the Originators. A lot of MCs aspire to reach Rakim’s level…..Myself included.
Dont forget to drop us a line on our email addy which is firstname.lastname@example.org…..Stay educated…..One!!!
Eric B & Rakim ‘Paid in Full’ Album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6aAFkP0BGU
Alpo F.E.D.S. Magazine Interview: http://www.angelfire.com/nc3/kaybroadnax/