Over-the-Top Hip-Hop

That well-publicized death threat? It's called marketing

In the days that followed, Benzino accused Miami Beach itself of pervasive racism, while close friend and Source co-owner David Mays hosted several press conferences, promising a federal civil-rights lawsuit and prominent city-wide demonstrations.

For their part, Beach police were cynical about both men's motives. Richard Barreto, then the police chief, alleged that Mays had threatened to play the race card and "tear up the city" if the matter wasn't resolved. "He wanted the charges dropped, and if they weren't dropped he was going to do everything he could to embarrass us," Barreto told WPLG-TV news. "He was going to call Jesse Jackson down here, he was going to call the NAACP."

Mays said his comments to Barreto were taken out of context -- and with the city still reeling in the wake of Memorial Day's "hip-hop invasion," Kulchur was willing to entertain both sides for a subsequent story.

In hindsight Benzino appears only to have been practicing for his current go at Eminem; his profound outrage over police brutality and racism seems not-so-subtly linked to the possibility of a jail sentence. This past July state prosecutors agreed to drop two felony counts, reduce two others, and allow Benzino to plead no contest to the remaining charges. Along with twelve months of unsupervised probation, he was ordered to pay $471 in court costs and $2500 to the Miami Beach Police Officer Assistance Fund. And that's it.

Not that Benzino hasn't been back here since. He spent considerable time this past fall at Collins Avenue's South Beach Studios, as well as at North Miami's Hit Factory Criteria, enjoying the area's hotels and restaurants as he recorded his new Eminem-bashing album. But it was a busy period, and he was left with virtually no time to utter even a peep about the Beach's so-called prejudice or his earlier vows to lead efforts to root it out. He even quietly withdrew his internal-affairs complaint against Officer Silvagni.

Beach police spokesman Bobby Hernandez suggested to Kulchur that Benzino may have been "reacting out of anger in the heat of the moment. After time went by he was able to think about the facts more and -- maybe based on his lawyer's advice -- he was able to realize his allegations were unfounded." That's an exceedingly charitable assessment, and it overlooks Benzino's shameful willingness to inflame an already divided community, not to mention tarnish an officer's reputation, all simply as a creative legal defense.

Benzino did not return calls but then, he remains a busy man. As he announces on his latest single, "Die Another Day" (thoughtfully delivered directly to Miami's hip-hop radio stations): "I'm the rap Huey, the rap Malcolm, the rap Martin."

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