Kevin Chiles: Penthouse Interview

Article by Seth Ferranti

You were out there working, hustling, early on, right?

I started packing grocery bags around the age often in the local supermarket. I also offeredto carry bags for women and older people up to the tenements. I may have only made $20 to $30 dollars on weekends, but that money I gave my mom really made a difference, particularly when it came to food.One of my next hustles was selling and delivering the Sunday newspaper. I would buy a stack, sell them, then run back and buy more as needed. Sometimes, I was lucky enough to occasionallyswipe some if I caught the truck dropping them off early in the morning. My little contributions were helping, whichmeant my mother no longer had to ask for credit as often from the corner store. I also had a few bucks in my pocket for the first time, and I liked it.

You eventually started hustling drugs. What was it like at your peak?

For several years, I was netting around $300K weekly, with the bulk of the money coming from D.C., and the rest from New York. I was in my early twenties and you really couldn’t tell me anything. Everyone down with me was getting real money, living in homes and condos, driving luxury cars, rocking the latest fashions and jewels, living the high life. They were all bosses in their own rights. The crack generation got rid of all drug protocol. Previously, you had the manufacturers of heroin in Asia essentially going through wholesale distributors, aka the Italian Mafia. The Mafia had established distribution centers and retailers — aka the urban blacks they worked with.

Cocaine distribution initially started out the same. However, as Colombian drug cartels started to see America’s appetite for cocaine and expanded the market — initially through Dominicans — at some point they realized they didn’t need the Mafia to distribute its products. They needed us, in our neighborhoods, as much as we needed them, and that protocol and pipeline that had dictated how drugs were essentially distributed in America was gone. If you lived on a block, you could open up shop.It was like a flea market.

Who were your contemporaries back then?

When I first started there were a few crews in Harlem that held the top spot, including one led by Azie Faison. In 1987, Azie was shot and nearly killed, and effectively out of the game. Rich Porter and Alpo were also contemporaries. Crusader Rob and the Rutledge brothers were affiliated with me. Billy Guy was someone I knew growing up in the Bronx who attained kingpin status in Baltimore in the heroin trade.

I wasn’t limited to Harlem. My time in Washington, D.C., paralleled and then exceeded Rayful Edmond’s. I was in one part of town, the Southeast, while he was in the Northeast. Other New York City contemporaries included Supreme and Fat Cat in Queens, Domencio Benson in Brooklyn, and Fritz, who was known as the Consignment King.

What else can you say about the late-eighties drug game?

Initially, things were great in Harlem. It was young guys hustling, posturing for the top spot, motivated as much by taking care of our families as we were by getting girls and having fun. Unfortunately, a madness overtook the less than four square miles that make up Harlem. The limited territory eventually led to battles over real estate. Cats getting money were increasingly having to defend themselves against stickup crews and kidnappers. Groups like Preacher’s Crew, Young Guns, and the Lynch Mob had a reputation for robbing, killing, and extorting, as well as drug dealing. Those crews sometimes became targets, too.

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