|Young Jeezy, left (Miami-Dade County Sheriff's Department), and Big Meech, right, (DeKalb County Sheriff's Office).|
At this late date in the evolution of gangsta rap and its offspring, any spitter blatantly boasting about his underworld drug connects is almost automatically considered a fake. Take the 305's Rick Ross
. He claimed to be a kingpin. He turned out to be a Florida corrections officer
But Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory, his brother Terry Flenory, and the rest of the Black Mafia Family weren't bullshitting at all. Throughout the '90s and early 2000s, they were slanging both keys and beats on the streets of Atlanta. Mostly keys, though. And BMF was dropping bodies too. In the club
Tonight at 7:30 p.m., author Mara Shalhoup will peddle her new 304-pager on the subject BMF: The Rise and Fall of Big Meech and the Black Mafia Family
at Books & Books
in Bal Harbour. And as a preview, the New Times
and Shalhoup talked Meech, the Jeezy connection, Mexican cartels, million-dollar stash houses, and a drug dealer's dead rap dreams. Peep it below.
New Times: What was the Black Mafia Family?
: Basically, it was two brothers -- Big Meech and Terry -- from Detroit who in the late '80s started slinging small amounts of cocaine. And over a period of ten years, they grew that into a quarter-billion dollar empire that was essentially responsible for the flow of cocaine into at least three major cities. It was really one of the largest American drug distributors of that era. But they also had this role in helping to launch the careers of some pretty well-known hip-hop artists, many of whom came up out of Atlanta where Big Meech was later based.
|Author photo by Matt Miller|
You mention the link to Southern rappers and Young Jeezy was the biggest one. How active was Big Meech in promoting Jeezy's career?
He was very instrumental in Jeezy's early career around 2003. What he did in Atlanta was promote a lot of parties for Jeezy and helped get his music spread around to all the stripclubs, which is how rappers would make it or break it. He supplied fancy cars and crazy medallion pendants for video shoots. And Jeezy was really open about his very tight relationship with Big Meech. You know, Jeezy shows up in all these promotional videos in which he's shouting out the Black Mafia Family and Meech.
But Young Jeezy was never signed to Meech's BMF Entertainment rap label.
No. Jeezy wound up obviously signing a deal with Def Jam
and then he had his own label CTE. I know Meech would've wanted him to sign with BMF Entertainment. It might have been a source of tension between them. But Meech didn't really want to get into it. He only had kind words for Jeezy. And literally, when I asked Meech about the high point of 15 or 20 years at the top of the drug game, he said the best thing was helping Jeezy's career take off.
How legit was the business of BMF? It only had one artist, right? Bleu DaVinci?
I mean there's no denying that cocaine money funded the label and promotion company. That's pretty clear. I think, though, Meech really had genuine hope that he could transition out of the drug game into a legitimate enterprise. And that's not an unusual trajectory. It's somewhat of a cliché ... But, for him, it was maybe a matter of timing. He certainly was able to create massive buzz and that was in large part through massive amounts of money. But I think that he also had this charisma that was pretty much undeniable. People would either run the other way when these guys came into the club or be overjoyed because all the women would soon be drinking $600 bottles of champagne.