A friend of mine, Brandon Asraf, who I bought weed from a lifetime ago, used to tell me these really fucked up, mobbed up stories about his old man. I used to think he just turned into a fantastic storyteller when he was high, but later I learned he wasn't bullshitting me.
Brandon hit me up recently to show me a video he made for his band, Brick + Mortar (below). It was all blood and violence like the stories he used to tell me. For a minute I thought I was high again. I figured I'd give him a call to talk about his old man and shit.
VICE: Give me the overview of the story with your old man.
Brandon Asraf: Before you can understand the story you have to understand where my dad came from. My dad is from Morocco. When he was young they had to leave because they got kicked out; no one ever told us why. He lived in a hut in Israel with 12 other kids and no water. At 18 he snuck out of the Israeli army and made it to the US where he started hustling.
He got a job working as a bus boy and met these guys who were rich mafia dudes. They asked if he would open the restaurant after hours so they could have card games. So at 20 he started an illegal gambling ring at this hotel's restaurant in Florida. He quickly made a million bucks. He came from nothing in a country where there are no rules or taxes, and got to America and made fast cash.
He eventually met my mom and moved to Jersey where he hooked up with these people who knew the guys in Florida and ended up in a diamond smuggling ring. He made millions and millions of dollars and he'd send people around the world to smuggle diamonds. Basically, if you go to Seaside Heights and it's all scummy with a bunch of Israeli dudes owning the stores, it's because my dad invented that shitty way of business.
Is your dad responsible for the scumbags on that show The Jersey Shore?
No! He's not. I'm talking like 1980s Seaside Heights.
You told me you grew up poor. How is that if he was pulling in millions?
He left when I was ten. All the businesses were in my mom's name and she had no money. My dad just split and he hadn't paid any of his taxes for years because he thought they were unfair. So we went from living in a big house to sleeping in an apartment hallway. Three days after my dad left my mom was freaking out, and she brought us to the mall and maxed out every credit card she had. Took all the clothes she bought us and hid them in my uncle's basement.
Where'd he go? Did he go to jail?
Yeah, he ended up doing jail time. My mom thought it would be a good idea to tell everyone he was dead. But he wasn't. He was living in Spain at first in hiding. For a while his name wasn't on the Wanted list, but then 9/11 happened. Since he's Moroccan Israeli his name—along with a lot of others who were of Muslim decent or came from a country where most of the people are from Muslim decent—was put back on the High Alert list. So he was living in Spain and got a call from his mother because she was dying. He's an old school gangster in the sense that he loves his mom more than anything in the world and so he decided to go see her before she died. He went and saw her, but on the way back at the airport his face was scanned like in Minority Report and a SWAT team came in, grabbed him, and extradited him back to the US. Then he spent a couple years in jail. They tried to make him talk but he refused, so they just deported him to where he could never come back to America.
Why didn't you tell me you had a diamond connection when I was buying my wife's wedding ring? I could've used a hook up.
You know what, some shady people have gotten nice diamonds from my dad. This one dude who owns a couple restaurants in Seaside got a ring from him. I remember him saying, "Your father was great, he got me this wonderful ring." I was like, "Was it colored in African children's blood?" Because I'm pretty sure it was.
Did he ever try to get you or your brothers to go to work?
He asked us to do some shady stuff a couple times. One time he wired $20,000 into my bank account, which only had $10 in it before that. I had to take the money to this dingy piercing shop and deliver the 20 Gs to this giant dude. The guy looked like a Persian from 300. At first I was like, "Why don't I just keep this money?" and then I saw him and knew that the guy would probably kill me.
The last time we talked to him he tried to get my brother and I to go down to Miami and pick up 2,000 Gucci handbags and smuggle them back to New York.
So this video you made for BANG is all mobbed up and violent. Is it based on a story your old man told you?
The story is my chance to be in that world and tell a conglomerate of a bunch of stories I've heard. One story my dad told me that particularly sticks out was from when he was first doing the gambling ring. One of the restaurant managers confronted him and said, "Hey, Jack. I know you're staying later and running a gambling ring. I want my cut." So my dad said "OK" and told him to go into the backroom. He closed the door and beat the guy within an inch of his life with a chair. He was covered in blood and my dad threw the money at him and said, "Here's your cut. Do you want some more?" And he never got hassled again. I don't know if my dad has killed people, but I don't see how you can do all that other stuff without someone getting hurt.
Is he still on the run?
Yeah, last I heard he was in Panama. This guy Facebook messaged me out of nowhere recently from Gibraltar, where my dad was living for a while, and said, "Hey, Brandon. Do you have you father's new address? I'm trying to send him some flowers." He sent the same message to all five of my brothers and sisters. Why would a guy we don't know go out of his way to find out who all of us were and then ask if he could deliver our father some flowers?
Don't you ever worry that someone might just come put a bullet in your head?
I did when I was young. Now I feel like he didn't talk and if they were going to do it they would have done it a while ago.
Previously - Tears of an Elmo