The world of books and authors is a peaceful place far removed from the mean streets where drug dealers sell their product and murder their rivals. But with more and more gangsters getting into the writing business things are heating up. Old beefs, new disputes, and the age-old underworld question: Whose word is law?
Organized crime is booming business. Not just for criminals making money off illegal schemes but also for those that chronicle their deeds. Journalists, writers, and filmmakers alike produce countless articles, magazines, books, documentaries, and movies about the underworld. Even former gangsters get in on the action by telling their story in front of the camera or publishing it in a hardcover book.
With documentaries like Cocaine Cowboys and Mr. Untouchable, movies like Goodfellas and American Gangster, and tell-all books by a long line of (former) gangsters the men and women with criminal records have proven that they can contribute to the legitimate market of selling true crime to the public. Criminal-turned-author Seth Ferranti even managed to do so from behind bars.
After having spent almost twenty years in prison, Ferranti is due to be released in a couple of years. In 1993 he was sentenced to 25 years behind bars after he was found guilty of being an LSD kingpin. Now 40 years of age, Ferranti is on a mission to make up for lost time and make it big in the legitimate world of writing, documentaries, and movies.
While behind bars, Ferranti started his own website, wrote and published numerous books including hits like Street Legends volume 1 and 2, Prison Stories, and, most recently, The Supreme Team, about Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff and his narcotics gang that ran the streets of Queens, New York during the 1980s.
“Supreme” has been a celebrity of sorts after he started hanging out with music moguls Irv Gotti and Ja Rule of rap label Murder Inc. Other rappers dropped his name and the deeds of his violent crew in their songs as well and pretty soon the name Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff (right) became a household name in the suburbs of white America. For Ferranti it was clear: McGriff’s story needed to be told in an honest way.
“I had first heard about Supreme in the 1990s”, Ferranti tells Gangsters Inc. “When I first came to prison the street legends that everyone was talking about were Supreme, Gerald “Prince” Miller, Wayne Perry and Rayful Edmond.”
Having been sentenced to a heavy prison term at a young age, but remaining loyal to the code of silence and laws of the streets, Ferranti became close to several of the legends he heard about from other inmates. He says: “I have known, been friends with, and corresponded with several members of the Supreme Team, including Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, Ronald "Tuck" Tucker, and David "Bing" Robinson. These are guys I did time with and I consider them friends.”
Ferranti (left) continues: “They shared their lives with me and the parts that they played in the Supreme Team inspired me in a way to do all the writing that I have done on urban gangsters. The Supreme Team article I worked on with Tuck for Don Diva issue 23 was the first cover story I ever wrote. I was very proud of that.”
Rightfully so. The story behind the rise and fall of The Supreme Team story has been told and mythologized in hip-hop, the prison system, and on the streets since the mid-to-late 1980s. Kenneth McGriff’s group played a big role in the underworld of Queens and had a big impact on a lot of the famous artists from that borough like 50 Cent, Nas, and Ja Rule.
For Ferranti the experience to hang with its members was huge. “To actually know and break bread with those dudes in prison was akin to hanging out with John Gotti for me. That is the type of notoriety these dudes had in prison. So it was a very personal book for me.”
When dealing with such legends an author always has to tip toe around certain issues. Or maybe use different phrasing. Or maybe not publish certain stories. When Ferranti’s book about The Supreme Team was published he received mixed reactions from the men he had interviewed for the book.
“Some of the people that helped me with the material for this book now hold me in disdain for writing it”, Ferranti says. “But that is a burden I must carry, a cross I must bear. I stand behind my work and the book. If someone doesn't like it that is their problem not mine. I did the very best I could with the material I had access to and I believe I did a very good job. Although it seems I offended or hurt some people involved with the team in some way, that by no means was my intention I was just trying to chronicle the lore and history of the team that I had been exposed to through the people I knew, stories I heard and publications I read. But sometimes even when you do things with the best of intentions people will find fault with it but I can't help that.”
And then there are those that don’t like Ferranti encroaching on what they view as their territory. People like James “Bimmy” Antney who was a member of The Supreme Team and has his own book and documentary about the group. When Antney found out about the book by Ferranti he told him in no uncertain terms that Ferranti couldn’t do the book. “He came at me real strong like ‘you can't do the book, who are you, you don't have permission’”, Ferranti says.
Gangsters Inc. contacted Antney about the book beef, but could not get a straight answer from him. Asked about all the books dealing with The Supreme Team Antney writes: “Number one: I was there!! The people they talk to is nobody's I take care of Prince don't matter what Preme thinks. He was not home for years that's where all these writers got it messed up!! They never touch on the Team. All of it is bullshit... Watch how my book blow they mind. I'm a boss..”
After Antney’s harsh words Ferranti’s book is effectively shelved. But that’s simply because he is awaiting approval from the only man who has the authority to give it: Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff. The man who gave the group its name. “Once I got in contact with Supreme he says I can put the book out. He tells me to go ahead and that he’s got me in regards to “Bimmy” and Gerard “Prince” Miller. My book is in stores now.”
It’s not the usual way things are done in the book business, but times change. Though the written word cannot be stopped, it flows smoother when it is backed by the spoken word of a powerful individual who can turn what are just written words into a law that cannot be challenged.
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