Soulja Boy getting his phone snatched live on Instagram by the Fruit Town Pirus was indisputably one of the funniest online events of 2017, but it started more than some dubious boxing match arrangements. While many people saw it as simply another instance of shallow celebrity drama, the substance of what Soulja Boy and Chris Brown were squabbling over—their respective gang ties—was not lost on those actually involved in LA's gangs. The unintended consequence of Soulja Boy's spat with Chris Brown was that it pissed off some of the most serious cats in Cali.
With so many artists claiming affiliation to the red of the Piru or Blood sets of America, some of the guys who helped start that organization have come out with a street campaign and a song called "Not For Sale," which talks about the widely rumored but never really proven theory that some big artists pay cash dues to street organizations to in order to fly the red flag and flash gang signs in glamorous videos and photo shoots. And everybody wearing Bompton hats because they heard YG once, this is kinda about them too.
Big WY is a Blood originally from Inglewood who got his start as a rapper on the first Bangin On Wax album in 1992. He began with the group Young Soldierz, and that led to him being signed to Death Row, run by the MOB Piru Suge Knight. He then created a group called Relativez with his creatively named cousin Suga Buga. He sat down with Noisey to explain the historical context of his new song and outline what exactly "Not For Sale" is all about.
Noisey: The Crips started in 1969, and then the Bloods started in '72. At first these groups were kind of the neighborhood protection, and then things started to change, right?
Big WY: It was a lot of real shit, man. Once the ignorance took over the platform of what street gangs were, it got vicious. Then the overkill of crack coming into play—this cheap drug that sells so fast, and make so much money being controlled and used by the community itself. A lot of people didn't really have any business sense. It was just wild. Plus, a lot of drug murders and money murders were classified as gang violence. They felt that the Blood and Crips was the ones doing it.
When did you get involved?
The late 80s is when I started to identity with me being a part of the gang life. At that time, the concept of wearing the wrong color meant life or death. It's not like that now.
People talk about the bad elements of a street gang, but what are some of the good things you acquire from being a part of a street gang?
Loyalty, honesty, discipline, family values—things like that. Learning how to read people and understand your surroundings. Also, being influenced by people who had money, we learned how to move like them. A lot of gang members lack certain values in their households, so they look to gangs for some missing values though the bonds and friendships they make with other members.
Being from a gang is very territorial. What are your feelings toward traveling and/or being in other areas?
I love traveling. But how we were raised, you learn to respect when you in other areas or out of bounds. We all grown men and women first, but you still have to respect and carry yourself with respect wherever you go.
"Don't make any judgement from you what you see from these people on TV and with these celebrities about this gang lifestyle. Don't be fooled by what you see on TV or social media."
What was the concept behind the song and video "Not For Sale"?
This thing of ours, man, it's strong. It was built on dynamic principles and respect, and it shouldn't be exploited by people who don't have that same level of respect for it. People just wanna hang around and start saying "Blood" or Cuz" because they with certain people and feel they have the right to do things on behalf of what we stand for. Don't get me wrong, you can be affiliated, but you don't have the right to make decisions and do other things like the real ones do. We done ride, lived, and died for it. People say its ignorant or whatever, but it ours, though. And it's not for sale. Period.
It's a fine line for the celebrities?
Definitely. Gangsterism is sacred. But when you are from that type of life and you make it to be a celebrity, you have a certain role to play. When you become an entertainer, you have to move differently because you are in front of the camera all day. If you doing streets gang shit you can easily be targeted because you are in the spotlight. It can end bad for you, and fast. Celebrities have to really respect and understand there is a fine line.
Where do you see the street gang culture as it is now, and how do you feel people view it now?
People gonna see it how they want to see it. They have their own ideas of what it is and make their own determination about what they see. Anything that catches their attention really. I will say this: Don't make any judgement from you what you see from these people on TV and with these celebrities about this gang lifestyle. Don't be fooled by what you see on TV or social media. Everybody tries to make reality and gang life much different, but really, people should be learning some of these good values that the gang life brings. Shit can get real, real fast.
Photos by Kammar G5, courtesy of Big WY
Poly Rob is a producer and audio engineer from Inglewood, California. Follow him on Twitter.
Andy Capper is the producer of Noisey on VICELAND. Follow him on Twitter.