As the daughter of former Gambino family underboss-turned-federal informant, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, Karen Gravano had an interesting childhood. In her new book, Mob Daughter, Gravano recounts growing up with a father who was always present at the dinner table, a doting dad who saw his daughter as the apple of his eye.
Yet, there was the other side of her father. Sammy the Bull ultimately admitted to 19 murders and helped convict 39 other organized crime members, effectively dismantling the Gambino family and then entering the federal witness protection program – a decision that his biological family refused to go along with. The story is one made for the screen. In fact, Mob Daughter is being adapted into a screenplay.
Karen Gravano has her own story to tell. She was convicted for drug charges and served three years’ probation. The reality TV star is also a single mother – and a BIG Hip-Hop fan. AllHipHop.com spoke to Karen Gravano to discuss her new book, the upcoming season of “Mob Wives” and Hip-Hop’s obsession with the mafia life:
AllHipHop.com: It often seems life rap culture is fascinated with mafia culture. Rappers take on mob names and boss personas. What are your thoughts about that?
Karen Gravano: I can definitely relate to it. I think artists like to create a character that people know about. It seems like America itself has glorified the mob. I’m not 100 percent happy with glorifying the lifestyle, because as a child who was born into this world, it does come with a price to pay. A lot of times when you are glorifying crime, there is a lot that you don’t see.
But, I love Hip-Hop, and I see why some of the artists do it.
AllHipHop.com: Who are some of your favorite rap artists?
Karen Gravano: Probably 2Pac. I love Jay-Z. I love artists who tell stories and express themselves but have something to say like Nas. Nas is a great storyteller. I love Hip-Hop, my daughter’s father was really good friends with Jam Master Jay during the Run-DMC era. I have to shout out Wu-Tang because I’m from Staten Island, so I have to big up my Wu-Tang Clan. I love them.
AllHipHop.com: I know you have a book out. Can you tell us a little more about Mob Daughter, and how it chronicles your story?
Karen Gravano: Mob Daughter is basically about what I’ve been through in my life, and how I drew from the situations that happened to me because of who my father is.
So, it’s not a mob story; it’s really a father/daughter story. I have found that a lot of people related to it. My father was a gangster; it ultimately influenced me a lot of the mistakes I made. Not that I blame my father for everything that happened in my life, but I learned from it and moved forward. I think the book also shows what these families go through. I’m trying to make a better path for my daughter to move past it.
AllHipHop.com: What are some of the differences in the way you were raised, and the way that you are raising your daughter?
Karen Gravano: I don’t really raise my daughter too much differently from the way my parents raised me. Embracing the experiences instead of denying it or hiding it has helped us, teaching them why we made our mistakes, and how to move on and move past them. But, I always felt like my parents were in my corner, and that’s how I raise my child.
AllHipHop.com: I’ve always had a fascination with mafia culture. I think, as you said, America loves a gangster, that bad guy. Hip-Hop culture is one that sees a lot of people killed, a lot of people incarcerated, and has been accused of glorfying violent lifestyles. Your father’s story is really a cautionary tale. What is a warning you would give to people who are fascinated with that dark side, the mafia lifestyle?
Karen Gravano: When my father was out committing crime, he thought he was doing what he had to do to take care of our family. But in the long run, there is no dollar bill that I could put on a relationship with my father. What you do, it affects your family. Even in the Hip-Hop industry, I don’t knock people who commit crimes. It’s about understanding what you did and moving past it. If those artists were really doing all of the things they talked about, they would be in jail, not on the Billboard charts. I appreciate artists who said, this is what I did, and how I moved past it. If you commit crimes, accept it, wear it, and move past it.
AllHipHop.com: Can you give us a couple spoilers from the upcoming season of “Mob Wives”?
Karen Gravano: Hopefully Season Three will focus a lot more on us as individuals. Even though we argue and we fight, we are arguing for something important, and that’s our families.
Karen Gravano’s New York Times bestselling book, Mob Daughter: The Mafia, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, and Me!, is in stores now. Season Three of “Mob Wives debuts in January 2013 on VH1.
Follow Karen Gravano on Twitter (@KarenGravanoVH1).