The Decepticons: Gangs Of New York Part 2

Continued from Part 1

 “The Decepticons were like the Lochness Monster or Bigfoot for a minute – something you heard about all the time but didn’t really see,” jokes Rock. “And, if you did see them, you didn’t enjoy talking about it. When you would get on the train, people would say, ‘be careful, you know them Deceptz are around’.”

Rock said there were at least hundreds of members, but “when you put too many components in the formula, it’s get diluted. We knew there were fake-ass Decepts running around.” When he was ready to leave the gang, he says, “There was no ‘Blood-in, Blood-out’ type of system. For the most part, we were a high school gang.”

And, by the time the popular “Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka” dropped on his 1996 Nocturnal album, Rock says he left gang life behind and focused on pouring his experiences into his lyrics. Along with his distinct voice and less-than-sunny lyrical style, the Deceptz years helped to cement Rock’s street credibility and influence over his nearly 15-year career.

“I’ve been rapping since I was 11 years old. I had no idea how I was going to go about becoming a professional rapper,” Rock admits. “I heard you had to have a demo and shop it, but I was way too ignorant to know any of that. During that time, I was in the streets, and I didn’t smarten up until I got little homies and developed a conscious because I didn’t want to see them to do the stupid shit I did.”

Flash forward, and in January 2008, Rock was accused of attempted murder against a man authorities called a “fellow pimp.” Rock says he spent seven sobering days on Rikers Island, and went on to pen most of his contributions to the Shell Shock mix CD during the lengthy court proceedings. 

“I’m a writer,” says Rock, “and there were periods [during the trial] when I couldn’t write at all because of the distractions. I also knew there might be some concern over my subject matter…that the court might try to use material in my songs against me.”

Some of that material included Rock’s ballsy lyrics on songs such as Boot Camp Clik’s “Yeah”: “Niggas be shakin' like pits when they lock on/ I rock on/ Calm in these streets or in jail/ Gettin' my high rocks on/ Even though I rock with the red/ Gettin' my pop on/ I'm a D-E-C-E-P-T-Icon.” And while other rappers such as Necro and the Cocoa Brovas have aligned themselves with the Deceptz in lyrics, many rappers today are sensitive to the potential high risk of admitting how their art imitates life.

In early July 2010, Duck Down Records president Dru Ha announced that Rock had been acquitted of all charges, and the rapper was spotted in July at B.B. King’s in New York celebrating the label’s 15th anniversary. Rock laments that he was angered by how the media swooped in to cover all of the sordid details of his arrest and trial, but won’t report on the good music being created by rappers like him today. He admits, however, that being accused of attempted murder against a pimp is scandalous and understandably newsworthy.

“Not guilty!” he yells emphatically during his AllHipHop interview. Seemingly, the former Decepticon has dodged another legal bullet, and he claims victory right alongside his youthful history of “doing dumb shit.”

“I learned that sometimes, when you’re fearful as a young man, that tree will grow into a tree of fearlessness" - Sticky Fingaz.

In 2009, the elusive Decepticons story was brought to life in The Eddie Black Story, a movie backed by Onyx and others like writer/actor/director Shawn Baker who wanted to clear up some of the mystery behind the gang’s existence – albeit through a fictional Deceptz gang member and plotline. Onyx member Fredro Starr stars as Decept “Psycho” in the movie, a role that doesn’t veer far from his wild-style Onyx persona and TV thug image, although he was never a gang member.

“The movie is about a kid named Eddie Black who didn’t want to be part of a gang, but he’s sort of forced into it,” says Fredro Starr. “He ends up carrying out the duties of the gang – robbing people, running up on trains, snatching jewelry or anything Polo or Walkmans…the mischevious things kids would do. The Deceptz weren’t holding weight like drug dealers. It was more of an intimidation thing, and just doing the movie took me back to those days in the Eighties.”

The Decepticons’ legend from the 1980s survives through various street tales of bad-guys-gone-good – there are now former Deceptz members who are successful entrepreneurs and motivational speakers helping steer Brooklyn youth down the right path. Fredro says some of them provided creative input for The Eddie Black Story and served as extras in the movie which was shot in Brooklyn.

The legend also lives on in the rap lyrics and images of former Deceptz members and associates who are now bonafide hip-hop legends. Rock is working on a new CD called Rockin Out West, set for release in September, which features classic West Coast beats and guest appearances from Kurupt, Ras Kass, Nate Dogg, and others. He says he’s looking forward to an upcoming album release party and the chance to reunite in the studio with Ruck from Heltah Skeltah and other Boot Camp Clik members.

Onyx, minus former group member Sonsee but with a renewed Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz, is in the studio now working on a long-awaited CD. “Kanye has a new album coming out soon, and we definitely not gonna let Kanye come harder than us,” says Sticky Fingaz. “I think nowadays, hip-hop is kinda soft in a way…it’s like the days when people were dancing and wearing bright colors. But I think we’re slowly making a return to hard beats and hard tracks, so this album is about taking that back.”

Fredro Starr continues to pursue his acting, with recent appearances on shows such as CSI-Miami, and recently, Sticky Fingaz has taken a courageous leap behind the camera, directing films such as A Day in the Life starring Mekhi Phifer, Bokeem Woodbine, Fredro Starr, and Omar Epps. Sticky says he is most proud of his new project “Smarty Pants,” a hip-hop inspired TV show that teaches life lessons to kids.

“I learned that sometimes, when you’re fearful as a young man, that tree will grow into a tree of fearlessness,” says Sticky Fingaz. “So, the lesson for me is that, even running with the Deceptz, you can grow.”

Soldier sees the Deceptz legacy in a different light: “Marcus Garvey once said ‘man is the most wicked creature on Earth’ because he’ll create things to kill another man. I saw the [Deceptz] do a lot of wicked things back then, and I think New York is returning to those violent times. We got the Bloods and Crips now, but New York has always been a Decept city.”