This is a story I wrote about The Crazy Homicides, a gang in Park Slope, Brooklyn when i started my recording studio there 27 yrs ago, back when the neighborhood was in a major downward spiral.
My studio is still there , and it's now a land of baby strollers, micro-breweries and fancy coffee shops.
Bill Laswell, producer, and then studio partner, is involved in this story. And Africa Bambaataa also got drawn in.
The Crazy Homicides - Twilight of the old Brooklyn
Last month I
took a car service into Manhattan from my neighborhood in Brooklyn. The
driver was a Dominican or Puerto Rican about my age. The conversation
quickly embarked on "the changing of the neighborhood", the most common
form of small talk in NY since "where were you on 9-11". This stroll
down memory lane turned into a "where are they now ?" of a peculiar
group of Brooklyn residents in the late 70's-mid 80's - The Crazy
Homicides. You could easily pick them out all over Park Slope, Sunset
Park and Gowanus, cause they had a specific style. They all wore Union
cavalry hats - the kind with a small bill and a flat droopy top, and
motorcycle-type leather jackets.
My driver gleefully boasted "my brother was one of their leaders. He
was a very, very funny guy". I was stunned, and shot back, "I was mugged
once by a group of the them, and the one who did all the talking, was
in fact, very,, very funny !". The driver, without any sign of
discomfort retorted "yep, that was probably my brother".
He continued with a gushing description of one of his brother's top
career accomplishments - a victorious battle about 8 blocks from where
my recording studio was then, and is now: "They (the rival gang) left
the pool hall and were hanging on 10th St. My brother knew that they
were waiting for more guys, so when they were about 30, he sent 20 of
his guys down from 5th ave, and another 20 up from 4th ave. He had them
trapped - 6 or 7 of them ended up in the hospital" ...Ahhhh - epic
So, this is how my own "funny" encounter with The Crazy Homicides went, 27 years ago.
was walking near my recording studio with Bill Laswell (Material, and
major record producer). He was my studio/room mate at the time. Three
Crazy Homicides approach from behind: "Hello, we're Brooklyn muggers,
and you have to give us your money". The put-on announcer voice was
disarming. I turn around to see three guys with big smiles, grasping big
screw drivers, in Union cavalry hats. The jovial tone made me decline
the demand for money, and we kept walking. Me and Laswell made the
mistake of starting to talk about music. "Oh, artists" the funny guy
says, "now we'll have to throw you in the Gowanus Canal". The canal was,
and is today, a fetid and toxic body of water on the edge of Park
Slope. I quickly coughed up $40.
The mugging really ate Laswell up. A couple weeks later, we had seminal
hip-hop artist Africa Bambaataa at the studio. Bam, as everyone calls
him, had himself been the leader of a gang in The Bronx called The Black
Spades, that he later transformed into the pacifist and utopian Zulu
Nation. There always were a handful of young devotees from the group
following him around. Laswell had the vision of a great moment, The Zulu
Nation taking an assertive stand against The Crazy Homicides, in a
defiant display of confidence. So, off they all go for "a walk",
unbeknownst to Bam, to find the Homicides. Laswell spots a few of them
in a Blimpies. "Yo, why we goin to Blimpies ?" Bam inquires. Now Bam had
quite a gregarious style, as you might imagine an African king -
leopard cap, lots of jewelry, a staff. As they walk into Blimpies, the
Homicides turn to face Laswell and Bam, in a moment of silence. Then one
of them bursts out: "Yo, it's Mr T !". The two watch stone faced as the
Homicides burst into a torrent of laughter, practically falling out of
their seats "hey, Mr T !". Well for those too young to remember, Mr T
was a very popular black action movie and TV star, who sported a heavy
gold jewelry style, years before mainstream rappers like LL Cool J and
Run DMC wore heavy gold chains.
Back in the cab - year 2008 - two men from Park Slope, Brooklyn are
reminiscing about a neighborhood that's practically been erased from
memory. I find myself lamenting the demise of a violent neighborhood
gang, who had style and humor, and in that sense seemed kind of smart.
We arrive at my destination, and the tone in the cab changes.
As sadness overtakes the driver's face he says "sorry about the $40". I
don't think the look of sadness was about the $40, because he still
charged me $30 for the ride. I think that in apologizing, it became
clear that we'd moved forward, but that there's a trade off. And that
part of us that is mythologized with Jesse James and the OK Corral, and
Don Corleone in The Godfather, is really just below the skin,
periodically finding a toe hold in our aspiring utopias.
By coincidence, I decided to buy a new lock for my door tomorrow,
because I didn't feel safe enough. I think that ties it together nicely