There has been much chatter about the connection between recording artist Chris Brown and the criminal street gang known as the Bloods, but is he an initiated member or did he buy his way in? What motivation would this successful music industry figure have for publicizing such an association and what are the implications for his career and, possibly, his personal safety?
Unraveling Brown’s strange infatuation with the Los Angeles gang culture is probably not that complicated; Brown is a man who lives or dies, metaphorically, by publicity. Most notably, the Virginia-born singer and actor has cultivated – perhaps fabricated – a “badass” persona that is only enhanced, he must assume, by involving himself with one of the most famous and violent street gangs in American history. Such involvement, however, may also have made him some enemies, as well as damaging his credibility among his own fans, a number of whom may, themselves, be ‘real’ gang-members who might see him as a ‘fake.’
Gang history is a complicated web of alliances, feuds, sets and turf wars and a few lines within this article could not accurately tell the full story. Essentially, the Bloods have been around since the mid 70s and were born as a counterweight to the other most famous LA gang, the Crips. The Bloods were formed out of an alliance of smaller gangs or, more accurately, sets – principally, a set known as the Pirus.
The Pirus – named for Piru Street on the East Side of Compton, California – had previously been associated with the Crips. Today, there are numerous sets which take the name “Pirus,” such as the Tree Top Piru, Mob Piru, West Side Piru and numerous others. Some Piru sets are allies; other are rivals.
Chris Brown has aligned himself with the set known as the Fruit Street Piru, who take their name from a Compton neighborhood where the streets are named for various fruits; Cherry Street, Pear Street, Plum Street and others.
Is Brown really a Blood? a Piru? Is he an initiated Gangster? Apparently, he is certainly not. It seems that he was able to, essentially, buy his way in.
Speaking to the entertainment industry news and gossip site Bossip, anonymous leads of the Fruit Street Piru – or, curiously, the ‘Fruits’ – admitted that they were down with Chris Brown publicizing his association with them because he shot one of his music videos in Compton neighborhood and even included members of the Fruits in the video. In addition, he has provided work for members of the set and he donated a thousand pairs of shoes for kids in the neighborhood.
Reading the chatter on websites dedicated to the R&B and hip-hop scenes, it’s clear that there is a lot of cynicism surrounding Chris Brown’s affiliation with the Bloods; the prevailing sentiment seems to be that he’s a phony; a fake Gangster who could only buy his way in.
Certainly, the Fruits’ leaders confirm that he was never actually initiated into the set.
Described as possible assassination attempt, a shooting at a West Hollywood nightclub last month highlighted Brown’s gang ties. Brown was inside the club when Suge Knight, founder of Death Row Records and a known associate of the Bloods, was shot twice and taken to intensive care. In the meantime, Brown continues to flaunt his gang association; talking about it openly and throwing up gang signs during his concerts and on social networking sites.
Brown’s mother, Joyce Hawkins – along with his girlfriend Karrueche Tran – are said to be concerned about his potentially dangerous ties to the Bloods. Word is, Brown himself thinks it’s “cool” to be a gangster – even a pretend one, but his mother and partner have apparently even spoken to a therapist, hoping that they can lure Brown away from his questionable new friends.
There seems little doubt that Brown has been accepted by the Bloods because of his fame and money. He may have been able to buy his way in, but he may be playing with fire; both in terms of his personal safety and the potential damage to his career, as the Los Angeles Police Department begins to take an interest. The LAPD has already approached venues in the city, attempting to persuade them to refuse admission to the performer and his entourage.
In August of 2013, Brown put out a tweet to Beyonce, referring to a video of her dancing. In the tweet, he said “looks familiar. Beyonce,U might as well go ahead and do this collab. JAY might have a problem wit it but this Piru!” Many read this is as a swipe at Jay Z – even a threat, of sorts – and Brown clearly refers to the Blood set with he is associated. Additionally, Brown – who is a prolific and somewhat talented graffiti artist, often includes the words “Fruit Piru” in his creations.
It is, of course, always likely that Chris Brown engineered the opportunity to buy his way into the Bloods as a huge publicity stunt and to enhance his carefully fabricated reputation as a bad boy. No doubt, the Fruit Street Piru are, for their part, quite happy to bask in his celebrity – for as long as it lasts.
Graham J Noble