Rap industry insiders have told investigators that the successful Murder Inc. music label was bankrolled by a notorious drug dealer who also was involved in a shooting of hip-hop superstar 50 Cent. The allegations were detailed in a newly unsealed affidavit obtained yesterday (May 1). The document was filed under seal in January in a federal money-laundering investigation of Murder Inc. and other rap industry enterprises.
The affidavit, signed by an Internal Revenue Service agent, accuses Kenneth McGriff — the convicted leader of a murderous drug gang in Queens — of forming an illicit partnership with Murder Inc. owner and longtime friend Irv Gotti. It alleges McGriff provided drug proceeds as “start-up money” for the label in the late 1990s. Murder Inc. is now home to top-selling recording artists such as Ja Rule and Ashanti.
Neither McGriff nor Gotti have been charged in the money laundering case, which prosecutors have refused to discuss. McGriff’s attorney, Robert Simels, called the allegations groundless. “As far as I know, he and 50 Cent had a good relationship,” he said.
A call to Gotti was not immediately returned, but he has previously denied any wrongdoing. A spokesperson for 50 Cent declined comment.
The affidavit was filed in support of a warrant authorizing seizure of bank accounts related to the straight-to-video film “Crime Partners.” McGriff helped produce the movie, starring Ja Rule, Snoop Dogg, and Ice-T, with Murder Inc.
According to the affidavit, one informant told federal investigators that while “Gotti is the public face of Murder Inc., McGriff is the true owner of the company … It is well-known in the music industry that McGriff has provided Murder Inc. with ‘muscle.'” The unnamed informants also linked McGriff to acts of violence, “including the shooting of a rap artist named 50 Cent who wrote a song exposing his criminal activities,” the court papers allege.
McGriff, 42, recently pleaded guilty to a gun possession charge in Baltimore, where he is awaiting sentencing. He had served 10 years in prison for running a crack-dealing crew responsible for several murders. Unconvinced he had gone straight, a team of NYPD and federal investigators put him under surveillance last year.
The investigators learned that McGriff had resumed drug trafficking in New York and Baltimore, and that “in an effort to launder his drug money” started Murder Inc., the affidavit alleges. The label had put him on the payroll under various aliases and given him keys to the “CEO’s office,” the papers add.
Authorities had hoped to quietly gather evidence. But an escalation of violence in the rap world — including the unsolved, execution-style slaying of rap icon Jam Master Jay in Queens — prompted investigators to make arrests and seize documents early this year during raids on the offices of Murder Inc. and other locations.
In interviews, 50 Cent has said he peddled crack while growing up in Queens, and has been shot nine times. The rapper, who once worked with Jam Master Jay, reportedly has feuded with Gotti associates. One 50 Cent song refers to “Supreme” McGriff and another convicted drug kingpin, Gerald “Prince” Miller, and the “Supreme Team” gang. “Yo, when you hear talk of the south side, you hear talk of the team,” one lyric says. “See [people] feared Prince and respected ‘Preme.”
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