Big Back

The haters may jab, but Cuban Link can take any knife

No one will ever see the video. The man getting a massage in the first frame is dead now, gunned down last January at a gas station on South Beach. The police don't know who did it, but that's not the reason this video will never be released. If the dead man was Tupac or Biggie or even Big Pun, the video would be a digital resurrection and "Where You At" would be a posthumous hit. But the big guy in the towel on the cell phone is Jason Norris, the bejeweled promoter who liked to get as close to rap royalty as he could, always happy to flash his money around and offer you a job doing whatever it is you do already, only do it for him. "Cuban, where you at?" Norris asks while a honey rubs him down on the waterfront patio of a Miami Beach manse. Cut to up-and-coming rapper Don Dinero, playing as large as his aspirations as he strides across a heliport in the Hamptons toward his own private chopper. There, walking beside him, is the reason this video will never be seen: Dinero's former mentor and friend Cuban Link.

Norris is dead, but in Cuban's eyes his onetime protégé is even deader. "He never understood the chain of command," Cuban complains of Dinero. The stocky rapper is down from New York to introduce new talent on his independent label CLK Records at a show at Level. He's relaxing in an associate's bungalow on the Beach's bayside. There's a brand-new Benz in the garage and a sign out front that says "Sold." Other than boxes on their way out, there's not much to look at in this wide white space besides the tattoos that cover Cuban's arms and the long scar that snakes across the left side of his face.

"He has no loyalty," Cuban continues while another associate, Pequy Homcil, cues up the video. "I'll play you this and then you can hear the new version of the song they did without Cuban," Pequy promises. The new version of Dinero's Miami-friendly salsa-charged single ("I got Power 96 pumping Dinero/Down the Palmetto") replaces CLK's Juan Solo on the chorus with a female R&B singer and substitutes Cuban's cameo with a local rapper named Pit Bull who rhymes, "We could do better/Without the weakest link."

"Dinero got other Cuban niggaz forming against me," Cuban Link says in disbelief. "This is a guy that comes in as a rookie, a 32-year-old car salesman. I put him in shows, let him open up for me. I gave him all the Cuban Link juice. And this is the thanks I get.

"This was supposed to be the beginning of CLK Records," says Cuban as the video fades out. "As a matter of fact, I heard he's fucking with Joe and them."

Cuban believes his childhood friend Fat Joe, the Puerto Rican platinum rapper who took over the Terror Squad rap crew when first-in-command Big Pun died in February 2000, ordered an attack on him at Jimmy's Bronx Café in April 2001. After the knifing, Cuban's relationship with Joe was severed and he was dropped from the major label, Atlantic. "My predicament at Atlantic was that I was part of Terror Squad," explains Cuban. "My voice was coming out of Joe's mouth. I know he's trying to blackball me in the game, shitting on my name with VPs and shit. That's mostly why I'm doing it by myself."

With the chain of command undone above and below him, Cuban Link looks to the only friend he has who can't betray him. "Six months before Pun passed he got a tattoo on his back that said, 'I hate you' with bullets coming across," he remembers. "I said, 'What the fuck are you doing? Little kids gonna see that.' But he explained to me, 'That's for the haters.' This is just another knife in my back," he shrugs. "That's okay, though. I got a big back."

 
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