By: Keith Nelson Jr (@JusAire)
You love to hear the story, again and again. About The Supreme Team and how it all went.
The Supreme Team was a New York City gang run by Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff in the 1980’s when crack-cocaine was more common than McDonald’s. The gang disbanded near the end of the ’80s following Supreme’s conviction in 1989 for engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. He received a subsequent life sentence in 2007 after being convicted of murdering two rivals in 2001. But the group’s legacy has carried on long after through the music they helped support since its inception: Hip Hop.
Rap artists commonly refer to the Supreme Team in songs as a means of adding veracity to their gangsta tales. Now, the Supreme Team name is entering a realm it never has: comic books. Seth Ferranti is a 45-year-old ex-convict who served 21 years in prison for running a drug operation in 1993 and spent time locked up with Supreme and Supreme Team members. In 2011, he took the stories he learned from the Supreme Team members and authored the non-fiction book “The Supreme Team: The Birth of Crack and Hip Hop, Prince’s Reign Of Terror And The Supreme/50 Cent Beef Exposed.”
Ferranti spoke with WatchLoud about his new comic book “The Supreme Team” based on the stories from his book, how he plans to include a fictionalized version of 50 Cent in the comic and what it was like being locked up with members of one of the most infamous New York City gangs in history.
WatchLoud: A comics book about a New York City gang and movement. What made you want to capture this story in this format?
Seth Ferranti: I’ve always been a big fan of comics. I grew up reading Marvel, DC [Comics]. Batman. X-Men. Stuff like that. When I first started writing books, articles, and stuff like that, comics were really something I really wanted to do. I really didn’t have the ways and the means to do so while I was still [incarcerated]. Mainly because of all of the technology, the artistry and all. In prison, the good artists are doing tattoos, they’re not going to draw panels on a comics book. It’s something I wanted to do for a while and when I got out I was looking at the different stories I had and which ones would make the best for comics. With the Hip Hop element and everything. So I picked the Supreme Team.
Break down some of the characters in The Supreme Team comics book.
Supreme is the general, the leader. He’s real diplomatic. Then you got Prince, who’s second in command, security team. He’s younger than Supreme. A little fiery. He’s trying to prove himself in certain situations. That’s what the comic is really about, Supreme and Prince’s story and the dynamics between them. In that course, they’ve chartered this group of people through this territory in that slatch of time, 1984, 1985, where Hip Hop was jumping off. Crack cocaine was coming in. All of this stuff made these images and culture and this legend. It’s almost a myth. That’s what I’m really trying to capture with the comics.
You were locked up with Supreme for years. What about him, as a character, did you discern from him during your time together?
Supreme was a real classy dude. He was the ultimate gentleman gangster. He didn’t talk much, he was laid back. But, when he talked, people listened. He was very respected and admired type of dude for the way he carried himself and how he treated people. He treated evvvverybody good. He just had that vibe. At the same time, he was a gangster, and that goes with it.
Is there anything from the Supreme Team story you have a personal connection to? Did you ever experience any of the Supreme Team things you’re writing about?
I was a college drug dealer. I sold drugs in college, so I wasn’t really in the city. I grew up with Hip Hop. Being locked up with various of these dudes and talking to them, getting their story, you get to know these guys on a certain level where very little people might know [of] them. People get to know them from the newspaper articles, court cases and stuff like that. I think I bring that side to it. I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t in crackhead Queens, NY in 1985.
The Supreme Team comic is based on your non-fiction book “The Supreme Team: The Birth of Crack and Hip Hop, Prince’s Reign Of Terror And The Supreme/50 Cent Beef Exposed.” Non-fiction is primarily based in fact, but comic books are able to take a bit more artistic license. What artistic freedom did you take with the Supreme Team story, being that it’s such a touchy subject that has got a few rappers in trouble just speaking on it?
I tell you in the disclaimer. This is based on my book, but it’s a fictional take on that story. It’s not like a non-fiction comic book. It’s just based on a non-fiction book. I’m taking literary license, because I’m doing it fictionally. All the names are fictional. It’s just based off something that’s real. That way you can go in different types of directions while still sticking to the main arc of the real story, in a way.
You told him you were making a comic book about the Supreme Team?
Well I wrote the book and the articles about him. I did all of that. It all goes together. Eventually, there will be a movie.
Comic book movies are the latest craze with Dawn Of Justice: Batman vs Superman being the latest blockbuster. What’s the reason for the comics book resurgence in mainstream?
I’ve been reading comics for a long time and I just got out a year ago. I went to Comic-Con and I was amazed at all the people, and how big they are. They’re like a real, big business. I saw it as an avenue to take the material I already had, that I already [was] writing about, and translate it to this form and see what’s up.
You were in prison for more than 20 years. How did that change you as a person? How has that shown in your writing? How was it adapting to something like the internet?
I got one of those big iPhones and I take it everywhere. I basically run my life off of here. I think I adapted really quickly. On the internet you can sign out anything you want at any time. You can go wherever you want to go. I’m waiting for the day where it’s going to be like you got your phone and say you want a pizza, you just go *makes dialing noise* and the pizza materializes right next to you. [Laughs]
One of the subtitles of your book included “50 Cent Exposed.” Have you had any problems with 50 Cent or his camp since then or ran into him?
No. 50 Cent? Nah. I’d love to talk to 50 Cent. That would be cool.
The whole beef between 50 and Supreme is well documented and anyone who writes about it is on either one of those men’s radars. But, you’re comfortable writing about such ominous material.
At the end of the day, when you take it out of the criminal element, it’s entertainment. I’ve been with the real gangsters, the real criminals. The mafiosos. I’m not saying I’m any of them but I broke bread with these dudes, I’ve lived with these dudes. To me, what I’m doing is telling cautionary tales. I’m doing it in an entertaining way. A lot of people seem to be in this type of business these days.
In the press release you mention how before Hip Hop become really profitable in the 90s, rappers needed drug dealers. Drug dealers were the ones funding their shows and such. How prominent will Hip Hop play a part in the Supreme Team comics. Are there any rappers appearing?
I’m going to use this 50 Cent character, fictionally. All of that stuff all the way up to the Murda Inc situation. I’d like to plan a series that stretches the entire [arc of his book]. That’s almost a 30-year period.
“The Supreme Team” issue #1 was released April 6 and is available to purchase for $1.99 at Comixology.