[“Yellow” Benjy Melendez, who founded and ran the powerful Ghetto Brothers street gang organization in the Bronx of late 1960s and early 70s and fronted its associated rock and roll band (and the real-life model for Cyrus, the “Can you dig it?” leader in The Warriors), recently sat down with hip-hop personality Shawn Setaro on his popular “The Cipher” podcast. Listen to the full interview and check out five gems Benjy dropped during the Q&A.]

On the Ghetto Brothers’ initiation process:

“When you become a prospector in my club, the first thing I have to test is your warrior. Let me see how tough you are. So you would fight two or three Ghetto Brothers at the same time. [We would put a 45 on the jukebox, and] you had to fight until the record finished. Then after that, you had to live in an abandoned building for seven days, to break the fear.”

On how he learned his fighting tactics:

“The inspiration was Biblical. My parents used to read us the Bible. Leaders like Joshua and Moses. I said, man, look at the way they ran their organizations, the way they ran their army. I wanted to be just like King David.”

On his family’s secret Judiasm:

“It was a symbol of shame and embarrassment growing up. I was scared to say [we were] Jewish, because I thought that by saying [you’re] Jewish, you’re gonna get hurt or you’re gonna get killed.”

On the power of a gang’s name:

“If I was to put on a Ghetto Brothers jacket, then you was a cool guy. But if you put on Savage Skulls, you got to act the role. You gotta act mean, be mean, do mean things. And I wound up doing a lot of mean things. It’s funny what colors can do.”

On the media’s disappointment when he organized a peace treaty amongst the city’s most powerful gangs in 1971 after the murder of one of his own key members:

“What did they want to see? They wanted to see news. They wanted to tell America, here’s a place called the South Bronx – the jungle, the Vietnam, the Korea. Where if you want to find death, don’t commit suicide, just go to the South Bronx; it’ll happen there. They wanted to tell America that a bunch of savages live here. I turned it around and looked at their faces and said, I’m not gonna satisfy you.”

To hear the whole interview, click here or listen below.