The South Jamaica section of Queens, New York was where Kenneth McGriff was born and raised. The McGriffs lived right across the street from the Baisley Projects. It was a working class neighborhood. Both his parents worked for the Transit Authority on New York’s subway system. They wanted their son to go to college and get a good job. That was the future they dreamed about and worked for.
Some dreams come true. Others don’t.
When he was 10 years old, Kenneth got religion. He came under the influence of a quasi-religion known as The 5 Percent Nation, which was also known as The Nation of Gods and Earths. For lack of a better term, it was a cult. The Five Percent Nation came from the peculiar imagination of Clarence 13X, who – once upon a time – had been part of the Nation of Islam. Before he converted, 13X’s name used to be Clarence Edward Smith. Later, Clarence 13X decided he could no longer accept the idea that Wallace Fard – who was the founder of the Nation of Islam – was god. So Clarence 13X left and started his own religion. His new religion taught that God was the Blackman and woman was his Earth. In other words, the Blackman was the highest power or Supreme Being of the Universe.
The 5 Percent Nation took their name from the fact that they believed they were the chosen five percent of humanity. The other 95% of humanity were made up of two divergent groups. Those who lacked knowledge accounted for 85%. And those who were devils made up the remaining 10%. The devils were people who knew the truth but deliberately taught lies for the purpose of personal gain.
Members of the 5 percenters took or received new names, which were based on their personal characteristics. After he converted to the 5 Percent Nation, Kenneth McGriff’s new name was ‘Supreme.’
Since many of the 5 percenters were recruited out of prison, hustling went hand-in-hand with the religion. Hustling referred to any type of criminal activity that made money for the hustler. Con-games, extortion, murder, drug trafficking, money laundering, gambling, money counterfeiting and robbery were some of the popular hustles.
Supreme fell into hustling early on. He mentored under some of the best hustlers around. He guarded stash houses for Ronnie ‘Bumps’ Bassett and hung out with Lorenzo ‘Fat Cat’ Nichols. Both men were ghetto drug kingpins who moved a lot of cocaine and heroin. By 1980, Supreme had his own crew, all of who were 5 percenters. They called themselves the Supreme Team and got their supply of coke and heroin from Fat Cat Nichols.
Supreme proved to be a superb leader. He was organized, charismatic and intelligent. He allowed Latinos to join his crew. Supreme realized that having Latino faces on the Supreme Team was good for business. Not only did Latinos dominate the world of cocaine distribution, but the Colombians were the superstars of that world. And Supreme wanted access to the Colombians.
In July of 1985, Fat Cat was arrested and tossed into jail. And even though Fat Cat continued to run his empire from behind bars, a gap opened up. The name of the gap was ‘opportunity.’ Supreme and his team filled it. Almost overnight the Supreme Team got so rich and so powerful and so recklessly arrogant that they began wearing matching red jackets with the word Supreme embroidered on the backs.
The Supreme Team was riding high. They had wads of cash, expensive luxury cars and lots of automatic weapons. They weren’t on top yet, but they were moving up fast. Their notoriety was growing and people were noticing. Some of the people who noticed were informants.
The cops noticed too.
Supreme made a mistake. He had a stash house located on 116th Avenue. The stash house was where Supreme stored drugs and money. A lot of people knew where it was and what was in it. In September 1985, someone robbed it, walking off with $80,000 of Supreme’s cash. Angry, Supreme let it be known on the streets that he wanted his money back. He hoped his reputation would strike fear in the heart of the thief, who would be so frightened he’d give back the money.
Instead, Supreme’s reputation backfired on him. Informants, who had heard through the grapevine what went down, not only told the cops – Queens Narcotics Squad – but gave the cops the address of another stash house, along with the address of Supreme’s headquarters on 231st Street, where Supreme ran his Team out of an apartment.
The Queens Narcotics Squad used the information to obtain a no-knock search warrant from Judge Steven Fisher. On September 10, 1985, the cops surrounded Supreme’s headquarters. Supreme and his crew were in the apartment, along with heroin, four pounds of cocaine, nine guns and $31,608 in cash.
The cops shouted, “Police!” Then hit the door of the apartment with a ram. Inside, they found Supreme and his crew frantically dumping white powder down the sink and toilets. Covered in what looked like powdered sugar, Supreme looked like the ghost of Christmas Past come to visit Scrooge. Supreme and his Team were arrested and booked.
Supreme lawyered up. He wanted the best attorney money could buy. That’s what he got. His attorney, whose name was Robert Simels, was a whiz. Simels contended that Supreme’s rights had been violated. The search warrant had been executed in an improper manner. It was a technicality, but it worked. Instead of going to trial for the charge of running a continuing criminal enterprise, Supreme pled guilty to the minor charges of possession of a weapon and drug possession. The court sentenced him to 22 months in prison.
While Supreme loitered in prison, his cousin took over as boss of the Supreme Team. Known as ‘Prince’ on the streets, his real name was Gerald Miller. Prince was a shrewd dude and very prone to violence. Prince didn’t do prudent or moderate. Anyone who got in his way was quickly removed, permanently. For example, when Prince did a short six-month stint in prison on a drugs and weapons charge, one of his lieutenants took the reins. The lieutenant’s name was Bryan “Fat Pete” Rich.
When Prince got out of prison, Fat Pete tried to keep all of the Supreme Team’s capital. Prince immediately hired a hitman named Ernesto Piniella to get rid of Fat Pete. Piniella never got the chance. Somebody beat him to it. On August 3, 1986, Fat Pete showed up dead. No one knew who did it. The case went unsolved.
By means of terror and murder, Prince took over the streets. His crew – the Supreme Team – grew to number in the hundreds. They had so much money to launder — $30,000 per day – that Prince started a company called Future Dimensions, Inc. The company was a front for buying real estate and luxury cars. He also bought a building in South Jamaica, calling it the Supreme Superette. It too was a front used for squirreling away drugs and guns.