By Jineea Butler
Hip Hop has always had a fetish with gangster movies and characters. We often see artists referring to themselves in lyrics or using popular characters as their stage name: Public Enemy, Scarface, and Little Caesar were all popular gangster films of the 1930s. The Notorious B.I.G. lost a court battle for the right to use the name Biggie Smalls, a character in “Let’s Do It Again” with Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. Even French Montana borrowed half of his name from Tony Montana made famous by Al Pacino in Scarface.
My favorite is the Godfather trilogy. It is a timeless chronicle of a 1940s New York Mafia family, redemption and the struggle to protect their empire from rival families. The current state of Hip Hop could be looked at as having five controlling families; New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago.
In the Godfather, Marlon Brando played a violent and vicious hero. One could argue that the description is redundant, but are you familiar with Hip Hop Veteran James ‘Bimmy’ Antney? Yes, Love and Hip Hop’s Waka Flacka and Deb Antney’s kin, and a former member of the Supreme Team. His moves are much like that of Don Corleone. In the Godfather II, Robert De Niro won an Oscar for portraying Young Vito Corleone and his rise to power. In a candid conversation with Bimmy, I learned how he earned the right to be called New York’s unofficial Don of Hip Hop.
When I asked him why he got so much love and respect from his peers when most are met with hate, he quoted mobster John Gotti: “Everybody is a Gangster till the real Gangster walks in the room.” Oh. Now I am not implying that Antney is involved in a life of crime. I could tell the streets raised him, but the desire to “be street” left the building long ago. Just like Don Corleone, he has been there and done that, but his experiences and wisdom has led him to understand that he must lead responsibly.
Bimmy is woven into the fabric of Hip Hop. He lived and slept on the floor in the early days of Def Jam in the famous Chung King Studio when Slick Rick did “Children’s Story,” when Run DMC did “Rock Box, when LL Cool Jay did “I’m Bad.” He witnessed Hip Hop being born in its purest form.
Young Vito Corleone realized that the reigning Don Fanucci was taking advantage of the people of Little Italy and decided that the only way to save them was to give him an offer that he couldn’t refuse. Likewise, Bimmy expressed his deep disdain of how New York artists are treated and not revered as they once were. Bimmy wants everybody to understand one thing: while he may have worked for and popped artists from all over the country like Gucci Mane and 2 Chains, he loves his city and wants to restore New York to greatness. After a gap of 14 years since their last project together, LL Cool Jay entrusted him to lead the crusade on the production and arrangement of the highly anticipated album GOAT 2. LL’s statement on Shade 45 VIP Saturdays says it all, “My man Bim, threw me to the wolves, I’m out here with the wolves and we doing what we do.”
When Vito became the Don, he was everybody’s go-to man. He catered to the people of the community and solved problems for the community. He negotiated truces and collaborations with the other five families, he even was the voice of reason when necessary. His team was comprised of his family and his most trusted allies.
I see Bimmy Antney carrying out the same obligations and undertakings representing the New York music scene. He led me to believe that is he the answer to making sure real Hip Hop lives, especially in New York. He said, “Who I am to down play Hip Hop, if I am not going to help. These young artists need to be nurtured and learn how to ask for and accept help. Maybe then their careers won’t be so short. I know the formula, I’m taking it back to when we first started and all we had was the bull horn. Hip Hop follows the streets and the street game is backwards right now. I care about the mistakes, a mistake could cost us a whole borough. God appointed me to monitor it and care about it and I do.”
The Godfather trilogy is fiction; Bimmy is not. Far from being a member of the Mafia, he writes his own movies and is an example of how life can imitate art. As LL Cool Jay is wrapping up G2 and eyeing a G3, Bimmy is setting the stage for Hip Hop to accept an offer no one can refuse.
Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet her @flygirlladyjay.