Pubdate: Tue, 07 Jan 2003
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2003 The New York Times Company
Authors: Michael Wilson, with Lynette Holloway


Hip-hop insiders said yesterday that the investigation into the Murder Inc. 
label and its brash mogul, Irv Gotti, will involve separating fact from 
fiction in an industry of blurs, where the songs often read like police 

Federal agents and the police raided the Eighth Avenue offices of Mr. 
Gotti, 31, on Friday morning, investigating his relationship with a 
convicted Queens drug dealer, Kenneth McGriff, 42, who is known as Supreme 
on the Hollis streets where he and Mr. Gotti grew up.

Mr. McGriff went to prison for 10 years after his 1988 arrest on federal 
narcotics conspiracy charges, and was arrested on Dec. 28 on federal 
firearms charges.

Mr. Gotti brought artists like Ja Rule, Ashanti and DMX to Island Def Jam 
records, a part owner of Murder Inc., and is seen by many as a standout - 
even in an industry of I'm-badder-than-you braggadocio.

"Irv is a great producer who turns labels in, who is a little confused 
about which direction to take with stardom," said Antoine Clark, publisher 
of F.E.D.S. magazine, which profiles rappers and drug dealers alike.

Phone messages left for the spokeswoman for Murder Inc. yesterday were not 
answered. A spokesman and a spokeswoman at Def Jam would not comment.

At issue is whether Mr. McGriff gave Mr. Gotti seed money for Murder Inc. 
from his drug profits, the police have said. Record label executives at Def 
Jam, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said yesterday that Mr. Gotti 
did not take drug money for the business.

Before Def Jam's president, Kevin Liles, told Rolling Stone last summer 
that "Gotti's so hot we had to get an extra air-conditioner put in here," 
Mr. Gotti used to sleep on a sofa in the office, because he was essentially 
homeless, the executives said.

There was no windfall of drug money or any other kind of money, the 
executives said.

Mr. Gotti was born Irving Lorenzo, but changed his name in homage to John 
Gotti, the Gambino crime family boss, now dead. One of the favorite stories 
about Irv Gotti concerns his interview for a job with Def Jam. Asked where 
he wanted to be in five years, he replied, "I want to become you, and then 
destroy you and everyone like you, because you can't know hip-hop better 
than me."

He got the job, and his proteges resuscitated the label that had launched 
Public Enemy and LL Cool J. He records at a SoHo studio called the Crack House.

Mr. McGriff is well known to the police as the leader of the Supreme Team, 
a drug gang in Queens. He resumed contact with Mr. Gotti when he was 
released from prison.

"A lot of these guys, they're really confused," Mr. Clark said. "They bring 
in the criminals from their neighborhood around them now. They think they 
know the guy, and bring the guy into the organization, and they forget what 
happens in the street, and that there's an effect from all that."

Mr. Gotti made Mr. McGriff a producer on a forthcoming straight-to-video 
project titled "Crime Partners," label executives said. The investigation 
that led to Friday's raid began when the police saw a bootleg copy of the 
DVD and noticed Mr. McGriff's name in the credits, the Def Jam sources said.

The police have said Mr. McGriff helped write and produce the film, Murder 
Inc.'s first, in which Ja Rule, Ice-T and Snoop Dogg appear.
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