Those familiar with the drama around the so-called “East Coast/West Coast beef” in hip/hop in the 1990s already know most of the details Davis lays out in his book surrounding the circumstances around Tupac’s murder as well as that of Christopher Wallace aka the Notorious B.I.G. just seven months later. Still, it was interesting to hear Davis’s perspectives. Especially his repeated take about the African community’s strength in dealing with adversity and how most of us had to be raised to learn individual skills to help us overcome anxieties and difficulties. This is a discussion the African community today is no where close to being able to have, but I could partially relate to what Davis was saying. I never had the benefit of people wanting to support my trauma fused life and I knew when I was 14 that I either had to figure out how to forge forward on my own, or I would be crushed. I chose the former and I’m so much stronger as a result of all of that work. What I disagree with Davis on is these are problems connected to our oppression by this system. A collective oppression. So, if we know that then at some point we have to grow to developing the understanding that our healthiest solution to this problem will have to result from a collective solution. Some of us may have figured out some tools to help us maintain our balance, but clearly, the majority of us haven’t. And, I am honest enough to understand that even many of the ways I adopted are not the best.
Another interesting portion of the book was Davis’s attempted justification for why he admitted what he knew about the Tupac murder to the police. There are far too many variables to recount them here, but the basic scenario is that Death Row Records was formed by Marian “Suge” Knight who grow up in the PIRU (Blood) area of Compton. As a result, he flooded Death Row with street PIRUs to serve as security and as a result, Death Row, despite having multiple artists – including Snoop Dog – who claimed Crip affiliations, became a Blood record label. As a result of the so-called feud between Death Row and P. Diddy’s “Bad Boy records from New York, Diddy struck up a relationship with Davis and the Southside Crips to generate an ability to neutralize any threats from the Death Row camp against Bad Boy. Some of the Southsiders, including Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, Davis’s blood nephew, got into a scuffle at the Lakewood mall with some of the PIRU affiliated Death Row folks and that seemingly daily minor incident in L.A. gang life proliferated when one of the Death Row folks jumped at that mall recognized Anderson at the MGM Grand in Vegas after the Tyson fight on September 7, 1996. Alerting Tupac of the recognition, Tupac took off to attack Anderson and most people have seen the video of multiple PIRUs stomping Anderson in the lobby of that casino. Later that evening, Anderson, Davis, and two other Southside Crips apparently drove up beside the BMW driven by Suge Knight with Tupac in the passenger seat and the rest is history. Although Davis claims his motivation for writing this book was to take the narrative away from opportunistic police like former LAPD Detective Greg Kading, its pretty clear in the font of the writing that Davis’s primary concern is trying to paint of picture of justification for why he clearly broke the most important street code – do not talk to the police. Davis’s justification was that the FBI and LAPD had broken down all of the Southside Crips around him, including those closest to him who had been intricately involved in his high level cocaine dealing in several cities throughout the U.S. based on his reported connections to Columbian figures linked to Pablo Escabor’s Medallion Cartel. In Davis’s words, the police had him cold to rights for life in prison and his family was pleading with him to talk to the cops. He also stressed that he didn’t snitch on anyone else besides himself because the three others in the car during the Tupac shooting are dead, including his nephew Anderson – the reported trigger man who killed Tupac (the three died for various reasons, Anderson during a shootout with other Compton Crips in 1998 that was completely unrelated to the Tupac killing).
Its impossible to know if Davis did indeed only snitch on himself, but true or not, without question, he did snitch. My take on his focus on this issue is that he appears to have a huge amount of internal trauma related to his decision to cooperate with police and his writing about it the way he did seems to be his methodology to attempt to come to terms with it.
As for my overall assessment of the book, there are several. First, the ease from which police agencies were able to dismantle the Southside Crips speaks to the contradiction we discuss all of the time. All of that supposed loyalty and uncompromising behavior by so-called “hard” inner city living took all of about two minutes to be dissected by the police. A comparison would be some of our steeled warriors for the African liberation movement who have been incarcerated for decades without uttering a word of cooperation to the police about anything as insignificant as the weather. Even our beloved European comrade Marilyn Buck – imprisoned for 30+ years for her supposed role in helping Assata Shakur escape prison – never cooperated with police despite knowing that doing so would have reduced her prison time. As a result, she ultimately died in prison (pretty much) and its obviously the same story for people like Jamil al-Amin, Mutulu Shakur (convicted with Buck), Russell Maroon Shoats, Rutchell Magee, Sundiata Acoli, etc. There is no loyalty that can withstand the immoral and railroad tactics of police gestapos, but the difference is those committed to ideals that extend beyond their individual lives can find the character to resist this intimidation and I have just provided you with multiple examples. Also, as sad as it is that these Africans in Davis’s world were able to figure out how to gain access to millions of dollars and today, only a token number of them are still “”ballin” while most of them are literally dead or in prison speaks to the sham concept of advancing within the capitalist system. Most of those PIRUs and Compton Crips have absolutely nothing today to show for their “work” and many of them are dead as a result of their participation during this period. This is a testament to the contradictions of this capitalist system that oppresses us. Davis makes an effort to make this assessment in his book, but he unfortunately doesn’t possess the tools of analysis to make a concrete analysis so what he ends up doing is focusing on the individuals who betrayed him, everyone from Suge Knight to Diddy to his Southside Crips homies who turned on him to the feds. Well, as Davis himself says within the book “those cops and entertainers cannot tell the street gangstas story. Only we can do that!” By the same token no one can properly assess the contradictions in an oppressive society like those who are engaged in constant and organized struggle to overthrow that backward system and that would be those of us who dedicate ourselves to that task. What Davis misses is that this system is based on exploiting us and any effort to try and minimize that reality by trying to take what you can get from the system is not only shortsighted, it’s a sell out move. The police agencies benefitted the most from bringing Davis and his crew down. Their only motivation for solving the Tupac/Biggie murders was backing Mrs. Wallace and her lawsuits off of them and gaining fame as a result. This Greg Kading, ex-cop – in a just world – would be prison right along side Suge Knight. He has gone around making a name for himself, writing books, and doing everything he can to portray himself as the expert on these murders. And, he apparently did well enough to retire from the LAPD. He and the other scum like Vlad from Vlad T.V. and all of them are the lowest level criminals because the only thing worse than the criminal is the one who profits off of the criminal acts. Davis errs in thinking that his experience is his individual experience. As he himself says, his involvement changed hip/hop forever. That’s a wise statement and true. Its too bad he doesn’t have the foresight to extend that logic to his cooperation with Vlad and these other bottom feeders because his story is the story of all Africans. It could never just be his alone. Same template. We do all the work and maybe one or two of us rise up, but the majority us end up worse off while the Europeans involved who did nothing end up with all of the wealth and prestige. Anyone who wants to compromise with something like that is nothing except a sell out, or at the very least, they are very shortsighted, no matter how tough they are or think they are.