Streets Is Watching Cam'ron's 'Paid In Full' — On Bootleg

Flick from Roc-A-Fella Films makes rounds in contraband form.

While the Roc-A-Fella Records family survived last year's lyrical attacks and legal strife, 2002 sees the Roc further plagued by its biggest nemesis: the black market.

This time, however, it's not an album that's been leaked to the streets — it's "Paid in Full," one of the movies from its Roc-A-Fella Films division.

Bootlegs of "Paid in Full" first surfaced last spring in the form of dailies — rough film workprints used for shooting and editing — before the film was even completed. "I don't know how people [could] like that," Damon Dash, Roc-A-Fella co-CEO and one of the movie's producers, complained at the time. "I hated it."

Now a more finished copy of the movie has hit the streets, complete with a 6/27/01 print date, time code, and a tag that reads "Property of Dimension Films" as the movie plays — all hallmarks of preview copies sent to industry reps.

Originally slated to drop last fall, "Paid in Full," now due this summer, is based on the lives of notorious 1980s Harlem drug dealers AZ, Rich Porter and Alpo and stars Wood Harris, Mekhi Phifer and the newest member of the Roc-A-Fella Records family, Cam'ron, as their fictional counterparts Ace, Mitch and Rico.

The latest bootleg of the film opens with Eric B. & Rakim's classic cut "Paid in Full" playing in the background while people party outside Willie's Burgers, a famous Uptown spot, in 1986. We are then introduced to the three leads as they sit around eating Chinese takeout and gambling thousands of dollars on wastepaper-basket shots.

The night takes a dramatic turn, and the rest of the movie is told from the flashback perspective of Harris' character, Ace, as he slowly becomes seduced into hustling after seeing his friend Mitch reap its benefits. After he's taken under the wing of another drug dealer (played by Esai Morales), Ace teams up with Mitch and Rico and becomes a kingpin.

Team Roc has been able to dodge the bootleg bullet with "State Property," the first of its three movie releases this year (see "Roc-A-Fella Film Division Kicks Into High Gear"). That flick, which is scheduled to hit theaters January 18, also centers around a group of drug dealers and stars Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek and Jay-Z.

The group State Property — Beanie, Freeway, Oschino and Sparks and the Young Guns, Chris and Neef — drop their self-titled debut on January 29 (see "Beanie Sigel Recording Albums With Memphis Bleek, State Property"). The video for the album's first single, "Rock the Mic," was shot December 22 and 23 in Philadelphia.

A third Roc-A-Fella film, "Paper Soldiers," stars comedians Lil' Kev and Capone and features appearances by the Roc-A-Fella family, "Clueless" actress Stacey Dash (Damon's cousin), Michael Rapaport ("Boston Public") and Noreaga. The movie is also slated for release this year.

"It's about dudes who used to rob houses, but it's a comedy," said Damon Dash, who directed the movie. "They weren't expecting me to do a comedy, but I decided to go that route.

"In the urban culture we sort of take ourselves seriously, but everyone I know that's sort of a gangsta is kind of funny," he continued. "These poker faces all the time is not real life to me. There's a lot of humor in the 'hood. Plus people say I've got an odd sense of humor, so if I'm 'a direct, I might as well do what I know."