Riker’s Island Funeral
For several different reasons, but primarily survival, I started selling drugs and robbing other dealers. The money was good and I could buy anything I wanted. And the girls gravitated. So I took a shortcut and tried to imitate the guys I viewed as superheroes when I was a kid: Alpo, Rich Porter, AZ and Escobar. I wanted in, so I got in. I started in the drug trade doing deliveries of weed, coke and ecstasy for a person who for obvious reasons will remain nameless.
After a while I began doing my own thing, I printed up some business cards (The Very Best) and I already had a few of my own customers, so it eventually spread and I was getting good money. I wasn’t the smartest drug dealer though, that’s for sure. You may remember that scene from the film Half Baked with Dave Chappelle, where he was giving out his business cards to just about anybody in the street. Well, I was so desperate to grow my little empire that I was basically doing the same thing. I would bring at least 500 cards out with me whenever I went to clubs or bars and just hand them out carelessly: “weed, coke, ex, I got it.” One day an undercover bought a couple of grams of coke and weed and knocked me for a direct sale. They got me, or I got myself to be perfectly honest.
I bailed out on that charge, but two weeks later I caught a robbery case — my strategy of robbing other delivery services in the city caught up to me. I had plotted out a heist, but when the person came to make the delivery, he started tussling and putting up a fight. My man and me searched the dude and couldn’t find anything. As it turned out, it wasn’t the dealer we thought we were robbing. We mistook some random lesbian, that we thought was a man…for the person we were supposed rob. We did the shit right on 23rd and 2nd Ave, and she went running to the police. It wasn’t long before the Boys In Blue had swarmed us.
Now I’m on Riker’s Island, looking at two felonies, two sales and a robbery, plus I also caught a case at Club Speed for breaking a bouncer’s nose. I remember sharing a pen with Shyne on my way to court one time. This all happened around the time of that Club New York incident with Puff.
So now I’m fighting three separate cases, but while I’m sitting in Riker’s, my mother passes away.
“Mommy, where are you? Why did you leave me here in this cold cell? I’m lonely. Criminals surround me. I am not a criminal. I am not a thug, but I have to be, or they will judge me. I’m scared. I don’t want to get cut again. I am already scarred. Help, Mommy, please, come get me out of here. Where are you? You’ve always been there when I needed you most. I remember when I was locked in juvenile detention, way out in Long Island and I was really sad, sitting in the day room watching the news. All I did was think about how much I wanted to see your face, and just like that, I looked up and saw you on the news praying over Yusef Hawkins’ coffin. I’m not sure how that could have possibly happened, but it did. It did happen and you comforted me. But now, you are gone, and I am alone. HELP!”
Sadly, I arrived at my mother’s wake shackled and handcuffed. The CO was compassionate enough to let me attend the service and greet my family and friends as if I was free, but with a watchful eye. CA did manage to slip me some weed. Since I wasn’t able to properly say goodbye to my mother, I instead wrote a short poem and slipped it into her coffin.
I got a good lawyer and ended up only doing nine months, but as soon as I got home I was back into the same shit, nothing had really changed. I can remember walking out of 100 Centre Street in some dusty old Iceberg sweater with Bugs Bunny on it and I immediately called my homie GUESS who took to me to Transit on Broadway and bought me some kicks and jerseys. Then we smoked some dust and went clubbing that same night. The drugs, the violence, the chaos, the misery was all still there and I was more than happy to jump right back into all of it.
I Wished We Could Trade Places
Now, most of my crew were literally “starving artists,” that came from humble means. However, we were also affiliated with the upper class, rich kids from Manhattan that gave us a glance into the lives we could only imagine living. The thing is, some of these “rich kids” were just as ruthless and vicious as us.
For instance, Cash RFC — an upper class Jewish kid from Manhattan. This kid was there through the thick of it all and spread the name “all city” with a knack for hitting trucks and representing the crew to the fullest.
Another good friend and RFC affiliate was Mecca. He was running the streets with us, getting into the same shit as the rest of us, but little did we know, he was the son of one of the most famous actors of our generation. If I told you who his father was, you probably wouldn’t believe me, but to this day he’s one of the most respected people in Hollywood. Mecca was actually one of the tougher kids back in the days. He was a real dude and he was there as an active participant, holding guns and hustling with the rest of us. Actually he was hustling before us. We were more about robbing and banging and he was on that “get money” tip. The one thing I always respected about Mecca was that I knew him for years and never knew his father was one of the biggest and most respected celebrities in the world. He wasn’t a bragger; he had class, a really good kid.
And then there was Davide Sorrenti (his tag was Argue) who was such a dear and close friend of mine and legendary photographer who actually shot some footage of CA hitting trains, decked out in Armani suits with my homey Anthony (his tag was 2Mer). Argue’s own crew was Ske Team, which was basically Shawn (his tag was Hoax), Richie Akiva and Jus-Ske, as well as others; but they all graciously represented with RFC.
Argue passed away many years ago as a result a medical condition which was exasperated by drug use. Ironically enough, he is often credited with reintroducing the ‘60s term “heroin chic” into the fashion world.
Now, when I think back and consider my associations with a lot of those upper class “cool kids” we were affiliated with, I have to be honest with myself and admit that I wanted to be like them in a way. I wanted to live where they lived, eat where they ate, and shop where they shopped instead of boosting. I wanted to wake up without a care in the world instead of the anxiety and fear of watching my back and hoping I didn’t run into another gang I had beef with. But then I have to ask myself, aside from the select few that I just mentioned, did some of these kids only become “cool” because of their affiliation with us? Were our black and brown faces ornaments for their white collars? Were my scars and pain somehow being worn vicariously by them?
At the age of 17, my family was evicted from our apartment in the Bronx and that’s when I turned to selling drugs. I eventually starting abusing the drugs I sold, and for years I struggled with addiction to crack, coke, ecstasy, weed, alcohol and just about everything else in the book.
The drugs were my escape from being poor, from being black, from being uneducated and fatherless. In a way, the drugs were my escape from being. Somehow, after what seemed like an endless cycle of parties, violence, chaos, rebelliousness, anarchy and death, I found life in rehab.
CA lived on East 50th in between 3rd and 2nd Ave, nine blocks from Bloomingdales. We actually had beef at first. We would cross out each other’s tags and look for one another with the intentions of inflicting damage. Finally, we crossed paths. Terrified, I said, “Lets just be friends man,” and since that day we were inseparable.
CA was born to a loving, tough-as-nails Polish and Italian mother and a Haitian father — but he was essentially raised by his mother. The kid had a genius level IQ and went to quite a few choice schools that were almost impossible to get into, one of which being York Prep. He was a really good-looking kid and always got the girl. Back then I wanted to be like him in every way.
CA wanted more though. He wanted to be a part of the subcultures that he was exposed to by watching movies like The Warriors, Wild Style and Colors, so eventually he became entranced by hip hop and obsessed with writing graffiti. His mother Kathy did her best to keep him out of trouble, but CA was a “natural born killer.” He was the first kid in the crew with a gun, the first to set it and he never ran. CA was the kid that would walk by you in the street on some, “What the fuck you lookin’ at?” And if you replied with aggression, you would end up leaving in an ambulance with a gunshot wound or a razor slash. He gave me my heart and the courage to be a fearless soldier. I love him and his mother with all my heart.
Anyway, me and CA eventually started writing graffiti every day all over NYC. We hit subway tunnels, abandoned train stations, train yards and of course the streets. Graffiti and hip hop were my escape from a life of poverty. I would go bombing with Nas’s Illmatic playing in my Walkman and visualize and identify with his street tales as if they were my own.
I began robbing public and private school kids for their Starter jackets, hats and lunch money just so I could eat. If we weren’t robbing to survive we would go crew deep to supermarkets and steal food to make meals. This was the RFC way of life in the early ‘90s. Crime, violence and graffiti was the way of life we chose. The city was ours.
During our early stages of becoming full fledge hooligans, CA and I met Busta: a 6-foot 5, extremely volatile, violent individual with a heart of gold. Busta became the unofficial leader of the pack due to his size and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty to cause damage. He also had a sharp, organized and business—oriented mind that eventually enabled most of the crew to benefit in many ways, financially and otherwise. When no one else was there for me, he was. Every time.
Our home base was the corner of West 3rd Street and 6th Avenue in The West Village, in front of McDonald’s. That’s where we would meet, drink, smoke, fight and rob kids for their Polo, North Faces, wallets and jewelry. We would call the pay phone that still stands on that corner to this day, to see who’s out and what club was popping for the night. I still remember the number: 212-674-9444.
My crew and I set fashion trends; North Face, Nautica, Tommy Hilfiger, that all became popular in NYC in the ‘90s because we were rockin’ it. Even Polo gear; we all know that the Lo-Lifes started it and made it popular in the ‘80s, but in the ‘90s that was mostly RFC in them Indian-Head knits, Suicide Gooses and Teddy Bear pieces. I was a star in all the local nightclubs: Palladium, Arena, Fever, Velvet, Vertigo, House Nation and Melting Pot, just to name a few.
The main RFC crew members in order of hierarchy are as follows —
Founders: Rast and CA.
Presidents/Leaders: AOS, BUSTA, MISTRO, RISK and ARK (RIP).
First Lady: Jocelyn (only female member).
Generals/Soldiers: FA (RIP), CASH, DEAL, SABE, SESA, RAY 1, DOUG, ARES, PRT, ASH, PRESS, FOES, BUDA, SEDI (RIP), FED-5, GUESS, ARGUE (RIP), ESO, KEM, DOMS, BETO, EJ, DOA, VAST, KEL and all of 5MH, ESKAY 5×7, REST and SHAZ.
We had numbers and notoriety. We had major press coverage in prominent, national magazines. There was the “Teenage Gangland” piece by Nancy-Joe Sales in New York Magazine and a photo-spread on boosting in Stress Magazine. We also got burn in a number of graf magazines.
But what did this fame do to us as individuals? If you ask me, I think it made us worse because we were being celebrated for doing wrong. We were selling drugs and hanging out with models. It was fun at the time, but at the end of the day, where did it get any of us? Those models ended up in rehab and most of us ended up in jail.
It was fun though.