FL: All the difference in the world.
NB: In federal court, they can railroad your ass, man. In state court, you can get a fair hearing and a fair jury.
MJ: A topic that comes up a lot—it came up at a showing of Nick’s movie, and it will when American Gangster opens—is that you can sell a lot of drugs and kill people—
FL: Stop right there. Nick ain’t ever killed nobody. Me either.
MJ: I know you’re a Gandhi kind of guy, Frank. I’m saying you can do all kinds of crimes, but a lot of people feel if you snitch, that’s worse. What do you guys think about that?
FL: I never in my life, not to this day, testified on nobody. Ain’t no sonofabitch in the world who’s ever gotten put in on account of me. Bad cops, yes. But rat that shit—no, no, no, no, no.
NB: When it comes to testifying, I testified against the guys who were in the Council along with me.4
FL: Like Guy Fisher.
NB: Yeah, Guy Fisher, Frank James, Wally, Coco, Kenny, and you know, a couple of other guys. When I went into the joint, I gave Guy Fisher a woman of mine and told him to look out for her, take care of her. I didn’t expect him to start fucking her.
FL: Guy Fisher’s a punk. What do you expect out of a fucking punk?
NB: I expected him to do what I was askin’ him to do. Not to betray me. Look, he had women of his own who were as attractive as mine.
FL: You had good-looking women, Nick!
NB: I don’t know why he had to bone her, and I don’t know why the other Council members let him live after they knew he did it. That’s why I cooperated. If I couldn’t get out, I could still pull those motherfuckers in with me.
MJ: Any second thoughts, Nick?
NB: No, man. When I realized they left me on the battlefield to die, I said, “Fuck it!” … I said, “I’ll pull those motherfuckers in, let them see what it’s like.” I would rather be out here in the witness program than to be in jail with them. Why would I wanna be in there with them kinda niggers? I don’t regret it. I saw this show on CNN, with Anderson Cooper. Cats were talking about “Don’t snitch, no matter what happens.” Well, I can’t see how a guy can be considered strong if he lets a bunch of assholes walk all over him and he doesn’t respond, just because of some code that a bunch of idiots have cooked up. Anderson Cooper asked this rapper, “Suppose a child was molested and you knew who this molester was. Would you tell the police?” He said, “No.” So that’s what I’m sayin’—the street guidelines are just moron bullshit.
MJ: Frank? Do you think there’s a time when it’s good to cooperate?
FL: I told you before. I never testified on nobody.
MJ: Some cases were made, Frank.
FL: Look! I have remorse about what I did.
NB: Frank, talk a little softer. You’re yelling.
FL: I have remorse. I never sold nothing to a kid in the street, but I found out that my people had. I didn’t want to sell to kids. I didn’t want to make them junkies. I didn’t want to be a part of it. I justify it by saying during my time, I couldn’t get a job on Wall Street, not even washing toilets. I went to school three days and the teacher wasn’t there two of them. I had to make a living. I didn’t want to be just a damn bum in the street. So that’s what I did. But it’s complicated. When you get there, every rat in the goddamned woods is gonna come running to you. And anytime you don’t got no money, everybody disappears. Tell ’em, Nick.
MJ: Most people say you guys hated each other, but it seems like you were buddies. What’s the story?
NB: I’ll tell you what a lot of people don’t understand. See, you read in the paper about people having shooting wars about turf. But both of us operated in that 116th Street area, and it was no problem. If only one of us had had powder out there, every time the police came out, they would have been able to surveil out that one group. But if there’s a lot of people out there …
MJ: Did you ever think there’d be this whole hip-hop thing? You guys are both mentioned in a million rap songs.