In 2006 journalist Mara Shalhoup wrote an award-winning series of articles on a shadowy organization calling itself The Black Mafia Family for Creative Loafing, Atlanta’s leading alt-weekly. Publicly, the members of BMF claimed to be operators and employees of a hip-hop record label, but the street cred they boasted of seemed more authentic than the boasts of the myriad studio gangsters filling CD bins with rote claims of murder and debauchery. Indeed, the initiated knew all along that BMF was no imposter; it was an organization that authorities think may have been responsible for the majority of cocaine movement into Atlanta for the first few years of the past decade.
Since then, Shalhoup has been named Editor-in-Chief at Creative Loafing, and has finished a book on the notorious crime family. It’s called BMF: The Rise and Fall of Big Meech and the Black Mafia Family, and it’s available now from St. Martin’s Press. Demetrius ‘Big Meech’ Flenory was the unquestioned head of the family, and is the mysterious and charismatic center of the book. It opens with Shalhoup’s first-person account of her interview with Meech and concludes with his inevitable sentencing. The takeaway: crime doesn’t pay, but it certainly yields interesting stories.
The character list of this particular interesting story goes far beyond the boss. Also appearing in roles of various import are bodyguards and relatives of Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Charles Barkley, Bobby Brown, rappers Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane, Jacob “The Jeweler” Arapo, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, and Franklin’s wayward son-in-law, Tremayne “Kiki” Graham, in addition to the various lieutenants, henchmen and adversaries of BMF.
Shalhoup is a thorough journalist with roots firmly in crime reporting. That’s how this book reads, mostly, as a journalistic account, with the occasional scene-setting flourish. The reader is left to his her own to decide who the real bad guys are, and who may have been just a product of the streets without a real chance to break from the cycle of poverty and crime endemic to inner-city life.
BMF is an important book for our region, because it tells a story about who we are in the South, even if it’s a story we may not all want to acknowledge. Shalhoup’s the perfect person for the job – young, savvy, skeptical, and very much a fan of Atlanta’s particular breed of hip-hop music.
By the way...if you're in the Athens area, Shalhuop will be reading from BMF and signing copies at Cine downtown at 7 PM on Wednesday, March 17. For those of you closer to Atlanta, she'll be doing the same at Borders in Buckhead on Friday, March 19 at 7:30. Get wise and get your copy.
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