#MNR: IMAGE IS ERRTHANG
“Not every MC be with the negativity. We have a slew of rappers pushing positivity.”
“I’ve seen the biggest niggas on the block get murdered, and they deserved it.”
“You hate the law, nigga break it. I don’t care. But when you get caught, remember that I don’t care.”
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, is a U.S. federal law that allows for further criminal penalties and can be a civil cause of action for crimes performed as a part of an ongoing criminal organization. Enacted on October 15, 1970, by section 901(a) of the Organized Crime Control Act as Title IX of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, it was signed into law by U.S. President Richard M. Nixon.
RICO was originally used in the 1970s to prosecute the Mafia and others who actively engaged in organized crime but has grown to become more widespread. Beginning in 1972, 33 states adopted RICO laws to be able to prosecute similar conduct.
Under RICO law, a person who has committed at least two acts of racketeering activity (from a list of 35 crimes, 27 federal and 8 state) within a 10-year period can be charged if such acts are related in one of four specific ways to an “enterprise” (remember this). Those found guilty can be fined up to $25K and sentenced up to 20 years in prison per racketeering count. Offenders must forfeit all “ill-gotten gains” and interest in any business gained through a pattern of racketeering activity.
Since the dismantling of cosa nostra, RICO has sunk its teeth into many outfits, from drug traffickers to financiers to the Key West Police Department to Major League Baseball to FIFA. With a conviction rate slightly above 95%, most defendants accept plea agreements for less time, though sentences are still usually a decade or more. As of late, rappers are the new target for RICO cases.
The rap crew Young Fly Nigga, or YFN, whose most well-known member is YFN Lucci, was hit with RICO charges in May 2021. A year later their rap and street rivals Young Slime Life, or YSL, whose most famous members are Young Thug and Gunna, were also hit with RICO charges. Both crews’ charged offenses are diverse, from racketeering to extortion to murder. Both crews are also alleged to have ties to the Bloods (wink, wink). YFN and YSL are both Atlanta based and are bitter rivals. New York City has also been active in RICO cases involving rappers, as Untouchable Gorilla Stone Nation affiliate and rapper Casanova 2x has been hit with charges. Cas has already pled guilty, receiving a 20 year and 8 months sentence. [Brooklyn] Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods (Trey Way) and their former mascot Tekashi 69 were also given RICO charges. Tekashi was given a much lighter two-year sentence for snitching on his own. His former manager Kifano “Shotti” Jordan received a 15-year sentence.
As with virtually every RICO case, none of the defendants from either crew have been given bond. Their cases seem to be going the way of their RICO predecessors: plea deals and long sentenced convictions.
I called it over a year ago. Check my Twitter if you are incredulous. Check the #MNR archives. I said that the government was going to project its focus on rappers, who flaunt their street affiliations every chance they get. Somewhere in time, the line of separation between the streets and the music/culture became blurred. Fans love the appeal of “gangsters” rapping about their opulent and violent lifestyles, sort of the way Great Depression era Americans were endeared to crime stories about their favorite gangsters of the time, from Bonnie and Clyde to Babyface Nelson to John Dillinger.
Rappers, like 1930s gangsters, provide a bit of escapism from the monotony of everyday life. The thing today is that unlike previous eras, the “gangsta rap” subgenre has taken over and become the dominant sound. I grew up an A Tribe Called Quest fan. They were mostly about positive vibes. They weren’t buttercups, but they also weren’t brazen killers. It was cool to be yourself at one point, even if you weren’t a card-carrying gun clapper.
Nowadays, few want to listen to artists who don’t claim any gang affiliation. Sure, you may not personally claim a set or bang, but think about your [or your kids’] favorite artists. If you’re a 2000s baby, there’s a great likelihood that your favorite artists claim a gang affiliation. If you’re a 2000s baby and “in them streets,” it’s almost certain that your favorite artists claim a gang affiliation AND rap about their exploits. Like I said on a prior blog: almost every YouTube music video ad that precedes the YouTube video you click on is some form of gangsta/drill. There’s an overabundance of gang signs, set claiming, “pole” gripping, stacks of money and weed smoke.
I don’t judge artists. I understand art and expression. But I’m also a middle-aged man. I am not influenced by what I see and hear (anymore). The kids today, just like kids in previous generations (mine included), are also influenced by what they see and hear. Trust me, it’s no coincidence that the Cordae’s of the rap world are afterthoughts compared to your favorite gang-affiliated artists. The record labels push the fuckery. They make sure it’s the product that sells. I happen to be a part of the argument that feels that this was part of “their” design. You fill in who “their” pertains to. I don’t want the Ye treatment.
RICO has now entered new waters, as it’s claimed its first battle rap celebrity. Tsu Surf, one of battle rap’s most known names and up-and-coming mainstream artists, was arrested last week on RICO and DEA charges. Surf is a known vocal member of the Rollin 60s Crips set based in Newark, NJ (founded in Los Angeles). There were ten members arrested in total, but Surf is the headliner. He was denied bond yesterday. Before Surf was taken into custody, he was on Twitter Spaces speaking on everything he’s facing. He expressed that he knew that this case isn’t going to disappear. He also expressed that he knew that his battle rap and rap career are likely over.
I’ve been a Tsu Surf fan for years. When on his A-game, he’s one of the best battle rappers on the planet. He reaffirmed his greatness this past calendar year, trampling every opponent in his path. He smoked John John Da Don, Calicoe, Cortez and JC in succession, all future first-ballot battle rap hall of famers. Of the group, the general consensus is that Cortez was the only one to WIN A ROUND. Battle rap is a completely subjective sport, so the previous statement isn’t scientific by any means. But his domination and influence have been clearly evident. He just made sure every member of his Gun Titles collective (except Pristavia, who still attended) was on the card. He was clearly the darling and cash cow of URLTV. In addition to his prowess on stage, he was also the best fight seller in the game; his promo was unparalleled. His legion of fans is absolutely loyal (some say to a fault) and fiercely protective of Tsu. He had the battle rap world in the palm of his left hand. His mainstream music has been well received, so much that he was the only battle rapper to grace the NYC Rolling Loud stage. As a fan, I am deeply saddened by the situation. As a man, I’m indifferent.
Do I wish Surf were free and preparing to main event the rumored Gun Titles/EFB card that likely would have been scheduled for December? Absolutely. Do I wish Surf were free to be with his daughter and mother? Abso[fucking]lutely. Do I feel sorry for Surf? Not at all. You buy the ticket; you ride the ride. It’s simple and it’s plain. I did plenty of dirt in the streets of Uptown NYC and #BXNYC in my younger days. I had plans to be the Samson Simpson (IYKYK) of Highbridge. I had a good 2-3 year run before they kicked my door in. I lost everything. I never asked, “why me?” I knew the answer. I knew I was immersed in illegal activity. I knew that the NYPD and haters were plotting to end my criminal enterprise. I understood what was at stake. When I did wear a pair of pig bracelets, I didn’t cry or wonder why it had to be me. I understood the consequences of my actions. Gracefully, I was spared having the book thrown at me after my gate was raided. Surf will not receive the same grace. His alleged crimes and my crimes are different. I’m not saying I was in his type of trouble. But I was in trouble. I had to stand tall irrespective of what a judge may have said. The same holds true for Surf. I wish he were home running his mouth on a Spaces as I type, but I’m not in mourning. When we make street decisions we abide by the consequences. I’m also not some green, square ass nigga. I understand that RICO charges can be retroactive for up to a decade. I’m sure Surf has tried to clean up his street activity in the past few years. But just like our grandmothers told us when we were growing up, our past has a way of catching up to us. You can bleach and clean away the blood, but luminol will find any spec left behind. Regardless, free my guy Surf. I still wish the best for him. I’m just not crying on the blogs or anywhere else.
Remove the moniker Tsunami Surf and every other name I’ve mentioned from your mind. Keep the alleged and convicted actions in mind. Is this the type of shit you want your children idolizing? Keep it a thousand. Yes, this opens the box to a whole other conversation, but it must be had. We know that music is very influential. We’ve known this since the onset of popular, secular music. There was blues, then rock-and-roll. Now there’s rap. At one time, each genre was demonized for its content and influence on the youth. It’s one thing if there is only a small sample size of artists rapping about these topics. But when it dominates the music and culture, its effects are troubling. Our youth seem to embrace the worst parts of the music and culture. Some feel the need to attempt to live the music. Some actually and actively live the music. Many do not have parents or a Mr. T. type of figure who effectively communicate and put things in proper perspective, so the kids don’t get the point. Some do and simply choose to ignore the point. I’m not trying to pull a Rev. Calvin Butts (IYKYK), but these discussions are necessary. But let’s be honest, a lot of this shit is pure poison. It’s (in tandem with other factors) slowly decimating our culture and imperiling our youth. But y’all aren’t ready for that conversation.
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