Azie "AZ" Faison.
Former street entrepreneur/coke dealer, intelligent MC, author, screenwriter, filmmaker, urban griot, survivor. Azie Faison has lived a lot of lives in his young 47 years. He has seen death up close and personal; he was shot nine times back in 1987, when his drug stash house in the Bronx was robbed. The botched robbery quickly dissolved into a bloody massacre which left three people dead, and three people fighting for their lives, including AZ. Three years later, Azie's best friend and fellow drug dealer Rich Porter--along with Rich's little brother Donnell--was kidnapped and brutally murdered, in a horrifically tragic story, that commanded front page bold print, and took the lead on nightly newscasts across the country.
If anyone knows the meaning of a cautionary tale, it is Azie. He lives it everyday. Using art to get his message across to the youth, Azie has transposed the poetic misery of the street both musically--as an influential rapper in the definitive Hip Hop crew Mob Style (and their haunting and compelling 1991 single, "What's Going On Black?")--on the big screen, with the critically acclaimed film, "Paid In Full," and in his best selling memoir, "Game Over," written with Agyei Tyehimba (published in 2007).
It was during the initial stages of "Paid In Full," that I had the honor of both meeting and working with Azie on a very early draft of the script, tentatively titled at the time, "The World Is Yours," which was a nod of course, to the 1983 Brian De Palma film "Scarface." Oliver Stone's gut-wrenching screenplay, and Al Pacino's iconic performance as a Cuban emigre' who comes to take Miami by storm via an avalanche of cocaine, became a de facto 'hood recruitment film for young and economically disenfranchised men like Azie. Young men desperate to map out a journey on streets supposedly paved with gold, only to find out that the road to the riches was littered with dead bodies and lost souls.
Listen close to Azie, and you hear a calm voice laced with the wisdom of being Blessed by GOD with another opportunity to find life's higher vibration. Listen close to Azie, and then you can understand why legendary emcees from Jay-Z, to Biggie, to Nas, to CL Smooth--and even an East New York rapper who called himself "AZ"--took a page out of Azie's life-style book. Azie Faison talks with authenticity about real life that can lead to real death. He eloquently described both in the great VH-1 Rock Doc "Planet Rock: The Story of Hip Hop and the Crack Generation," and on the panel I moderated after the premier of the film at the Paley Center in New York (12 September 2011). In the video here, Azie breaks down the difference between real and fraudulent Hip Hop:
A big shout-out to the producers of the documentary "Planet Rock: The Story of Hip Hop and the Crack Generation"; Ice T, Martin Torgoff, and Richard Lowe (who also directed the film), and VH-1's executive producers Brad Abramson and Stephen Mintz. This is one of the best VH-1"Rock Docs" ever made, and I am honored to have been a part of such compelling television history.
Be sure to pick up Barry Michael Cooper's (The screenwriter of "New Jack City," "Sugar Hill," and "Above The Rim") new anthology of '80s street reporting from the crack-era, "Hooked On The American Dream-Vol.1: New Jack City Eats Its Young," available exclusively on Kindle/Amazon. Only $1.99! Amazon/Kindle has a free, downloadable app for all computers and mobile devices. Click here to go to the "Hooked On The American Dream-Vol.1:New Jack City Eats Its Young" Kindle store site. Thank you for visiting Hooked On The American Dream and please...buy the book. Have a Blessed day.