Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff is one of the most notorious African-American drug dealers in American history, courtesy, of his beef with cultural icon Curtis 50-Cent Jackson. However, Supreme’s story predates hip-hop and the cultural appropriation of black “street life” which has infected the music industry and allowed artists such as 50-Cent to make million of dollars and become household names. Supreme was a fixture of Queens in the early 1980’s which helped grow the local New York culture of DJs, break dancers, graff artists, and, most of all, rappers, into the multi billion dollar industry it would become.
Kenneth McGriff on the streets was called “Supreme” because of his participation with the Five-Percent Nation. A splinter group of the Nation of Islam in the 1950’s which eventually started controlling the New York state prison system among black prisoners. Still a presence on the streets of New York to this day, Jay-Z wears a 5 percenter medallion sometimes, and the Wu-Tang clan are probably the most prominent members of the organization . So it makes sense that McGriff as a youth when building his empire on the streets of Jamaica, Queens affiliated with the Nation of Gods and Earths as they like to be called. In the move ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’ McGriff is loosely based on Majestic and one of his flunkies names is Justice, popular 5 percent names that allude to the divinity within themselves.
McGriff started gathering up local youths and 5 Percenters in Southeast Queens to take advantage of the growing cocaine trade, creating and carving out a profitable street level business comprised of teenagers selling rocks for $5 and $10 which became a million dollar business a month on the streets and throughout the government housing of South Jamaica. Becoming known as the Supreme Team, the leader was Kenneth McGriff who would be seen cruising the streets of Queens in an armored Mercedes-Benz.
To really understand Supreme you have to understand Jamaica, Queens. In the 2000 United States Census, Queens County was the only relevant County in the entire country where black family income was higher than white family income. In 2020, it’s is still one of the most sizeable concentration of black bourgeoisie in the country focused around hoods like Hollis, Carrolton, and Jamaica. South Jamaica was the most notorious, the poorest part of this vast working class enclave, sharing its border with Linden avenue with the disreputable Brookly neighborhood of Eastern New York, to this day one of NYC’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
The drug trade in this section of Queens was always profitable in South Jamaica because of the diversity of the surrounding areas who would come to buy. So when selling crack rock kicked off in ’84, sections such as Guy Brewer Boulevard and the Baisley Projects were lucrative for the Supreme Team and other dealers of the time. Check out this video where Bang Em Smurf tells what started 50 Cent’s feud with Supreme: