Guest Star: "I Finally Came Face-To-Face With BMF Kingpin Big Meech"
Monday, Sep 13, 2010 3:50PM
[BMF: The Rise and Fall of Big Meech and the Black Family author Mara Shalhoup recalls her multiple attempts and final encounter with legendary kingpin Big Meech.]
When you hear the letters "BMF," you're probably hit with visions of $100 bills raining onto the heads of strippers, or Maybachs and Bentleys lined up like military tanks, or bricks of cocaine stacked waist-high and 10-deep, or Rick Ross huffing, "I think I'm Big Meech." For me, it's a bit different. I see not bricks but court documents stacked to dizzying heights -- enough to fill my (admittedly small) living room. I see faces lined up in rows of police mug shots, along with the faces of victims of random violence -- and the faces of those who mourn the loss of the imprisoned and the dead. And I see Big Meech, not as Rick Ross or club-goers once saw him, but as a man trapped behind a plexiglass partition.
In early 2008, I finally came face-to-face with Black Mafia Family co-founder Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory. By the time I made the trek to the Michigan jail where Meech was housed, I'd written extensively about him and his crew: how they employed 500 couriers, managers and distributors in a dozen states; how they moved at least a quarter of a billion dollars in truckloads of coke; how they enjoyed the kind of notoriety that's only earned by dropping $50,000 on a single night's worth of champagne. I'd spent countless days and nights pouring over photos and videos of the kingpin, trying to grasp his swagger and sway, his confidence and command, his ability to draw in rappers and moguls and a coterie of men and women who worshipped him. I'd been trying for years to meet with him, but prior to that jailhouse visit I'd glimpsed him in person just once. It was in a federal courtroom in Detroit, where he stood before a small audience (basically his parents and me) and pleaded guilty to the most serious charge lodged against him.
Months later, in the moment before we formally met at the St. Clair County jail, I was nervous as hell. A deputy led me down an insanely long, fluorescent-lit hallway. I could see Meech there behind the plexiglass partition long before I could get a read on him. I didn't know what to expect. Walking down the hallway, I began to fear that Meech would ask me who I thought I was, writing all those newspaper stories about him over the years. I was worried he'd try to coerce me into sugarcoating BMF's story for the book I was writing. And I was a little suspicious of why he finally agreed to meet me. When I reached my side of the partition, I was relieved to find that Meech was smiling. The meeting went better than planned. Within a few minutes of chatting about my articles and the court case and his acclimation to lockup, some surprising things about the inmate and his empire became clear. Aside from where he sat, Meech was not unlike any number of ambitious entrepreneurs who wanted something bad enough to put everything on the line. And as with so many successful enterprises that aimed their sights too high, BMF was destined to fail.
Mara Shalhoup is the author of BMF: The Rise and Fall of Big Meech and the Black Family and editor-in- chief of Atlanta newsweekly Creative Loafing.