The intentions were to do a celebratory piece honoring the jaunt that originated in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects to the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. Unfortunately the streets crept in with an ugly reminder of the perilous pratfalls that exempts NO ONE from under its microscopic eye, vice-like grip and unforgiving heart.
This ain’t funny so don’t ya dare laugh
Just another case ‘bout the wrong path
Straight ‘n narrow or yo’ soul gets cast
As Slick Rick observed and spat in his classic cautionary tale, “Children’s Story,” that wrong path is paved with trappings that looked and felt sweet as you embarked on that trek. Fueled primarily by the pursuit of financial gains, no one factored into the equation the roles that adrenaline, attention and power would take on. Rare is the man that won’t eventually succumb to these characteristics. Hailing from the streets of Harlem, Alpo Martinez epitomized that equation. Through nefarious means he hit the proverbial lottery WHILE letting any and everyone know who he was and how he was gettin’ it! That panache, arrogance and flamboyance was the antithesis of what those in his line of work should be, but the ’80s made Martinez one of the most influential figures in not just the NY and eventually Washington, D.C. streets, but with the growing national attention of rap music, he would be cemented in the pantheon of hip hop culture. Truth be told, an untold amount of artists at the behest of the same major corporate industries took his persona, cloned it, and cashed out to the tune of billions.
While the sponsors have the choice to throw stones and hide their hands, artists themselves are still attempting to occupy vocations in both worlds. The latest failed entrant was platinum recording artist Fetty Wap. Right before he was set to perform at one of the biggest fairs in hip hop, The Rolling Loud Festival, Willie Junior Maxwell II, Wap’s government name, was arrested outside of Citi Field. He is one of six co-defendants charged with conspiring to distribute and possess controlled substances.
According to officials the defendants distributed more than 100 kilograms of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and crack across Long Island and New Jersey.
“The pipeline of drugs in this investigation ran thousands of miles from the West Coast to the communities here in our area, contributing to the addiction and overdose epidemic we have seen time and time again tear people’s lives apart,” Michael J. Driscoll, an assistant director-in-charge in the F.B.I., said in a statement. Be clear, this is serious. Once them alphabet boys (F.B.I, C.I.A, I.R.S, D.E.A) are involved it starts to get dark.
How ironic is it that the cliched outcome of involvement in the narcotic game (death in the case of Alpo and jail, for the time being for Fetty) comes during the very same week as one of the greatest escapes out the game was celebrated as Sean “Jay Z” Carter was immortalized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Twenty-five years have passed since one of the realest odes to the streets, ‘Reasonable Doubt” was released and with that placed him in contention for the hallowed walls. During his induction speech for the first balloter Dave Chapelle offered, “I need everybody in rock and roll to know that even though you are honoring him, he is ours. He is hip hop. For ever and ever, and a day.”
Jay Z was part of an eclectic mix of major Black musicians inducted into the 2021 class. Also honored was LL Cool J, Gil Scott Heron, Tina Turner, Clarence Avant, Kraftwerk, Billy Preston, and Charley Patton. The ceremony will be broadcast Nov. 20 on HBO.
Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.