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It seemed harmless enough at the time. Sitting with Sourcemagazine head David Maysand SourceYouth Foundation director Edward DeJesus earlier this summer, Kulchur noticed both men wearing the same distinctive medallion necklaces -- an Mset inside a black shield. Was there a third Musketeer missing from our lunch?
"Most of our very close friends have the M," answered DeJesus. It meant they were part of the Made Men.
Excuse me, the Made Men?
"It's a secret-society organization," Mays deadpanned before breaking into a smile. Rolling his eyes at Kulchur's interest, Mays offhandedly explained that the Made Men were simply a rap outfit headed by his close friend and business partner Raymond Scott, who also happened to be DeJesus's nephew. Both Mays and DeJesus appeared bored as Kulchur continued to pepper them with questions about their unique jewelry. After all, with virtually every hip-hop star in America set to descend on South Beach for the SourceHip-Hop Music Awards, there were plenty of other things to talk about. Besides, allusions to mob crews are strictly de rigueur within hip-hop; no self-respecting rapper leaves home without his posse.
Russell Crowe somehow managed to accept his Oscar without dragging his agent, personal trainer, nutritionist, and a passel of boyhood friends onstage with him. But verbal gladiator Ja Rule, striding into the spotlights at the Jackie Gleason Theater on August 20 as he snagged the Source's Single of the Year, had no less than five pals in tow, including producer Irv Gotti. And as Ja Rule grabbed the microphone and bellowed out "It's murder!" (a nod to Gotti's production house, Murder Inc.), no one in the audience so much as flinched. This is hip-hop. Everybody's gotta have a shtick.
David Mays's intimate connection to the Made Men returned with a vengeance at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 21. The bulk of the SourceAwards attendees were already at the airport heading home. Both the Miami Beach mayor's office and the police department were congratulating themselves on a relatively trouble-free weekend after two and a half months of "hip-hop invasion" jitters.
Meanwhile in a Beach parking lot off 86th Street, Raymond Scott and Ofcr. Robert Silvagni were rolling around on the ground next to Scott's Ferrari. Scott asserted he'd been attacked without provocation during an unwarranted traffic stop. Silvagni said he had it backward and added felony charges of battery and resisting arrest with violence to those Scott was already facing: reckless driving and driving with a suspended license.
Over the next few days, Mays and Beach police Chief Richard Barreto traded barbs in the media, with Barreto alleging that Mays demanded all charges against Scott be dropped or he'd play the race card and "tear up the city." Mays's response? Barreto was lying. Par for the course considering the pervasive racism Mays believed motivated not only Silvagni's actions but those of the entire Miami Beach Police Department.
By week's end Mays was formulating a federal civil-rights lawsuit on Scott's behalf and planning Beach protests. Needless to say he also declared that the Source Awards and its philanthropic arm, the Youth Foundation, would not be returning to Florida.
This jarring coda to the awards weekend may have left many Miamians scratching their heads, but throughout New York City's hip-hop music industry a collective groan could be heard: "Here we go again!" In a milieu where controversy is a stock-in-trade, few figures inspire as much teeth-gnashing as Raymond Scott, and few relationships have caused as much consternation as the one between Scott and Mays.
As any Hollywood studio executive will tell you, sex sells. With hip-hop that formula is often expressed just as simply this way: A whiff of violence sells. Roughneck authenticity (deserved or not) is a rap marketer's best friend.
In that sense there is no more authentic a rapper than Raymond Scott. Growing up in the hardscrabble Boston neighborhood of Roxbury, Scott and his cohorts in the Almighty RSO had already seen one group member and a bodyguard shot dead before even issuing their major-label debut. That release, 1992's "One in the Chamba," was perceived by the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association (BPPA) to be a call "for the assaulting of police officers" and thus illegal under Massachusetts law. Scott insisted the song was an outpouring of personal frustration over Boston police brutality -- not to mention free speech. Unmoved, BPPA attorney Frank McGee enlisted the help of Oliver North and Jack Thompson's Freedom Alliance in filing a criminal suit against Scott based solely on his lyrics. (Thompson is remembered in South Florida for his crusade against 2 Live Crew.)
"They call Aerosmith the bad boys of Boston, but we're the real bad boys," Scott said at the time. "Nothing against 'em, but the worst Aerosmith probably did was wipe their butts with a million-dollar bill."
On the point of badness at least, law enforcement might agree. Subsequent years would find Scott shuttling between Boston-area court dates, facing charges of reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, disorderly conduct, and assault on police officers.
The Almighty RSO soon morphed into the Made Men, and Scott traded in his Raydog nickname for Benzino, but the song remained the same. Made Men members were implicated in a backstage brawl involving several stabbings at a Ruff Ryders/Cash Money concert. A near-fatal stabbing of Celtic basketball player Paul Pierce inside a nightclub currently has three members of the Made Men entourage on trial for attempted murder. A heated conversation inside a mall with two police officers who suspected Scott of using a stolen credit card would end in a knock-down scuffle.