Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella label used to be an unstoppable hip-hop force. But piece by piece the dynasty has crumbled, not least with founding members and one-time stalwarts falling victim to the pesky law. So with last week’s news that original Roc player Kareem “Biggs” Burke has been arrested on drugs charges, here’s a cheat-sheet for keeping Roc artists past and present out of the pokey.
1. Don’t Sell Drugs
Jay-Z has never shied away from reveling in his alleged drug-dealing past in rhyme, and even went so far as to put out the address of his stash house in rhyme (556 State Street). His ol’ Roc-A-Fella founding partner Kareem “Biggs” Burke hasn’t fared so well, however: Along with forfeiting his half-a-million home, Biggs faces up to five years in prison for last week pleading guilty to conspiring to move over 100 kilograms of marijuana. If it matters, apparently Biggs obtained his produce from California.
2. Get Good Lawyers (If You’re Gonna Stab Someone)
During a listening party for Q-Tip’s Amplified album in 1999, Jay-Z was distracted from the fancy canapés long enough to, er, stab industry figure Lance “Un” Rivera. It was a charge he at first denied, until his lawyers managed to barter down a potential 15-year jail bid (on a felony assault charge) into three years of probation (on a third-degree assault charge). Ever the remorseful type, Jigga mentioned the incident in his Decoded book, but didn’t go the full step of actually issuing an apology to Rivera.
3. Don’t Harass the Kids
In a classic case of sitcom parenting, when Damon Dash discovered his son deejaying in a nightclub in New York City, the ex-Roc-A-Fella figure ended up locking him into his apartment. Cue a lawsuit from his ex-wife suing him for $1 million for harassing their kid – to which Dash counter-claimed that he was down, out, and stoney broke.
4. Don’t Walk Around With Guns
Back when the Roc was one big happy family, Beanie Sigel was the dynasty’s hard nut. Unfortunately, his raw image spilled over from his rhymes into his life: in 2004 Sigel went away for a year and a day on a federal weapons charge. In hindsight, Beans should have taken note of how his ol’ boss, Jay-Z, dealt with a similar gun possession charge in 2001 and found some weed-carrying patsies to do the time for him.
5. Pay Your Damn Taxes
Jay-Z may be content to boast how (for him) “money ain’t a thang,” but his other Roc spars haven’t fared so well: Two years ago Beanie Sigel was investigated for failing to pay taxers on over $9 million of earnings, while frequent court-visitor Dame Dash is rumored to owe nearly $3 million in unpaid taxes. At its peak, the Roc probably should have bought up H&R Block instead of that darn Armadale vodka brand.