How I Changed the Life of a Street Gangster and Lowered the Crime Rate in Norfolk, VA
A livelihood in the typically adverse side of Norfolk streets as a black or Spanish man can be quite gritty. A tussle to subsist in the midst of savages can be quite provocative. The ego of man, alongside his hardiness, perspicacity and inclinations furnishes him with good luck.
A man, partially black, partially Spanish, partially Geechie was jaded by street life and coveted a better life. His ceaseless confrontations betwixt other street gangsters in order to survive, his street stories proliferated.
I owned a recording studio. In addition to his stories, he procured a skill: rapping. Because of his ascertainment of discovering if he could enthrall the masses of the hip hop community with his style, he dedicated a substantial ample of time on my platform. Never did I reckon that the gangster himself would undertake such an extraordinary advancement in the future.
In 2002, a manifold of crime rate categories in Norfolk, VA exceeded the U.S. average: Murders, rapes, robberies, thefts and auto thefts. With the street credentials and high hierarchy ranking in the streets, this guy certainly schlepped responsibility for the high crime numbers in the city. Judging men and women isn’t my specialty; I reject the exertion to point my finger if it defies my intent to guide one on a path to betterment. But, I would rather a city become less of a crime factor. I‘m a father that frowns upon criminality. As such behaviors are attractive, glorified and appreciated, an easy influential pitfall. The young are the victims that we must safeguard. I am against crime in the community.
This guy, despite existing as a gangster, strived to alter his field of vision to a greener grass perspective. I was a ticket out his frays, pains, disconsolates and trepidation, well at least temporarily.
Long hair in a ponytail, heavy weight, a plethora of tattoos ; a slow suspicious walk with a shady face in constant thought; Air Force One’s, baggy jeans, gold chains, gold teeth; not a single encounter would he fall short of the possession of a firearm. Tony was his name. His appearance — sketchy. Definitely a mien that draws out red flags.
My home housed a recording studio. Good natured is in my DNA, I opened my indulgent home to him. Music tracks created with his vocals was the motive. Many would deny his entry, but I refused to match their disapproval. He was talented. A great performer. I committed many hard and long man-hours in the studio with this gangster. Very productive. We shared countless guffaws. I tuned in to his every concern and idea. I accepted his malicious ways. I battled him on the microphone. I dedicated an interest to understand him. I eventually earned an income of his trust and became a valued friend.
He granted me entry on the inside of his troublesome world, which was infested with drugs, alcohol, guns and more gangsters supplementary to his discrete gang. I was introduced as the producer, a panjandrum. I had the skills to develop songs in a systematic structure that contained quality and style respected by those citizens living where the grass is greener.
Among the presences of street thugs, was I terrified? $100,000 in all hundreds says that I was in fact scared crapless. Who’s considering that bet? I sustained, however. But, throughout my ordeal, I remained a compadre. His magnitude of respect for my skill set and character shielded any potential involvement in gangster affairs on my part. Mutual respect was employed.
Our friendship lasted practically two years: girls, music, alcohol, cigarettes was the basis. I provided a studio, a place for Tony to escape harsh realities and ease the intensity applied aggressively by his forefinger on the trigger of a nine millimeter Beretta. He was less disturbed about the cogitations of being robbed or killed. We shared stories, knowledge and wisdom. He was clever and attentive. He paid close attention and understood complexity. Our song catalog was extensive to a degree, many classic tracks that I still hold dear to this very day even after nearly 20 years later.
Throughout our experiences, Tony gained a great deal. Palpably, I could observe his actions and words and determine a more professional outlook of the street gangster. He learned a cure for his street life disease: in other words a better attitude, better behavior and a better thought process, because I was basically opposite of his ways (and he noticed them and adopted them):
- I had zero demand to carry a gun. I had zero enemies
- I hadn’t a clue about the reasons behind the transgressions of the streets. My upbringing was in a middle class home in the suburbs where my parents disallowed extended wandering from our immediate neighborhood. I had a curfew that never exceeded the illumination of the street lights. Punishment was a no brainer for disobedients. My parents were strict, caring and they both worked high paying 9 to 5s. Additionally, they primarily chose my friends
- Care, love, respect, and an upstanding personality were qualities drilled within my core growing up
- I didn’t consume drugs. Tony on the other hand required cocaine in order to keep sharp and alert all hours of the night
- I was employed as an engineer with the government, so crime was unjustifiable in the sense of submitting to it in order to pay bills
- I kept out of the strip clubs. Tony was a frequent visitor
- Suspicion, fear and anger did not capture the faces of business owners when I entered their establishments
Not even the least am I insinuating that I was the superior man. I was just dissimilar. On the bright side, those differences were the components of a tight bond. My character combined with his drive to be in a better position in life later created favorable energy in us both: zeal for him and enthusiasm for me.
Witnessing my process of constructing musical components for roughly two years, somewhere along the way, captivated his intrigue in greater possibilities than his previous dream of just converting into a world renowned rapper. My entire operation involved: my 16-track recorder, 88 key keyboard, condenser microphone; a performance style, a lyric composition style, a music mixing style, the list goes on, his mind shifted frequencies to the whole shebang.
One of Tony’s compadres, “Chi”, who too participated in my studio sessions, entertained a visit I paid him to his house in late 2003. To promote the likelihood of triumph through my game plan as a producer, I unveiled an attainment: “I’m under contract with 92.1 The Beat to record clothing commercials for one of their clients — Dr. Jays — in Norfolk, Va and South Carolina”. Chi, although gang related, cared for a family: a wife and a baby boy. His rejoinder was constructive, filled with positive energy of felicitations. A lent ear to my commercial and praise, ensuing, Chi had some exhilarating news as well.
Apparently, Tony silently formulated a plan during the span of our studio engagements. He planned a getaway.
What had ensued from those two years spent in my studio was thrilling to derive. Chi revealed that Tony traveled to California.
Me: “California! Why Cali?”
Chi: “He went to California to go to school”
Chi: “He went off to music production school”
Excited for his undertaking, Tony, the street gangster turned student. Enthusiasm overtook the wonder of secrecy. I never watered any conjectures. Joy derived intensely and indefinitely. His presence will not be forgotten, the final discussion about Tony the gangster was prodigious. The end of our friendship, if true, the instance of discovering his transition was skeptical, an “associate” now sounds more unfailing. However, our bond, my impactful succor that redesigned his focus, his outlook and attitude is the most recollected.
Just providing Tony a chance; investing time, knowledge and experiences, risking my life up against fear provoking events and persisting, I re-shaped a gangster. Furthermore, alongside the success of developing a music production student, a big-time Norfolk street gangster resigned. Sequentially, Norfolk streets were safer. Pondering on the kids of Norfolk in 2004 combined with the lowered crime rates in the city, my exertions infused in Tony’s progress was preeminent in comparison to other aspiring rappers.
In 2004, the year that Tony was missing in action, the violent crime rate dropped 12%, property crime dropped 52.6%. Auto thefts, thefts, burglaries and murder rates declined as well. All categories gradually decreased starting in 2002, all the while spending my efforts in the studio with Tony.
Proof revealed that superpowers aren’t solely responsible for saving a city.
Two years alongside a troubled gangster who exhibited evidence of yearning rectification has proven to produce further profit than loss. Ego, fear and customary judgements followed swiftly by customary responses (denying a street gangster of change) is murderous in a sense. Why? A human being, with a life, imbued with a high drive to ameliorate their circumstances are limited to crime in order to live. When a healthy life can sprout, watering it with understanding, care, hope and good deeds can reveal if the gangster is possible for change; discovering the key to lowering the city’s crime rate in the process. A big brother.