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Lords of Dopetown

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FL: Call them songs? When I came along, we had singing. They might make up songs about me, but I don’t have to like them.

MJ: What about you, Nick? You’re like a hip-hop folk hero.

NB: I never thought anything like this would happen. When hip-hop first started, everybody—I mean the music entrepreneurs—predicted that hip-hop would be dead in five years. They said, “Those motherfuckers ain’t gonna make no money.” But hip-hop rolled along, and look what they’re doing now. They got Jay-Z, Damon Dash, Kanye West, 50 Cent. These guys are doing something legitimate.

FL: At least Nick knows the names. I don’t know none of them. I know Puffy Combs, because of his father.

NB: Oh, Melvin! Melvin Combs.

FL: Melvin used to be at my house a couple of times a week. I’m proud to see Melvin’s son like that.

MJ: Nick, are you curious about how you’re portrayed in American Gangster?

NB: Yeah. But when I heard that Cuba Gooding was doing it, I thought it’ll probably be decent. He’s an Academy Award winner.

MJ: What about Denzel as Frank?

NB: I knew if Denzel played the lead, then it wouldn’t be a bullshit part or a fucked-up script.

FL: Denzel Washington did more than a good job, he did a hell of a job. Nobody in the world’s as good as Denzel.

MJ: Man, I thought you guys might be more at odds. This is a love-in.

FL: We are friends, so you’re missing the whole point.

NB: There were a lot of the people who we were both hooked up with who we both like. Jimmy Terrell, for example, and Turtle and Claude, Peter MacDougal, Frank Moten.

NB: What about the guy who died in the mob riot?

FL: Aww, what was his name? Got killed on the George Washington Bridge. What was his fuckin’ name?

NB: I forgot his name, too, but we knew all of these guys. I guess there’s some nostalgia in it.

FL: It was the good old boys back then, that’s what it was.

NB: Frank, are you taking anything for your broken leg?

FL: They gave me a whole bunch of shit.

NB: There’s a Website out there of a guy named Gary Null. He’s an alternative practitioner, and he offers all kinds of vitamin supplements to cure bone injuries. You really ought to go check him out.

FL: Yeah? I’m going to take this down, man.

MJ: The vitamin connect. Hey, what do you want to have on your epitaph? What do you want your legacy to be?

NB: I’ll tell you what I want them to say on mine. I want them to say, “Boy oh boy, he was old. God damn, he was old.”

FL: Fuckin’ old.

1. A “key” is a kilogram of uncut heroin. Lucas brought his prices down by working with Southeast Asian suppliers, while Barnes purchased his keys from Mafia sources.

2. MCC, the Metropolitan Correction Center, held federal prisoners awaiting trial. Matty Madonna and Herbie Sperling were well-known criminals involved in the drug business. Sperling, a man of diminutive stature, was widely known as being “mean as a snake.” Asked about this, Lucas said, “There ain’t no snake that mean.”

3. Barnes posed for the cover of The New York Times Magazine in 1977. When President Carter saw the image, he was said to have personally directed the Feds to crack down.

4. The Council was the name for Barnes’s inner circle.


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