[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at 1999's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Friday, May 7.]
Identical-twin gangsta rappers Kane & Abel were named Thursday in a federal indictment that accuses them of being part of a cocaine-distribution ring run by a notorious New Orleans drug kingpin.
The 22-year-old rappers, born David and Daniel Garcia, were added to an indictment that already cited four other men involved in the fringes of the New Orleans music scene, according to Scott Ando, a spokesperson for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. The Garcias are charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, Ando said.
They had just published a novella about a young man who as they did moves from New York to New Orleans, "only to find himself chewed up and spit out by the Crescent City's powerful, drug-infested underworld," according to a description of the book at Amazon.com.
The rappers whose most recent album, Am I My Brother's Keeper, debuted at #1 on the Billboard R&B chart will turn themselves in Monday, their lawyer, Richard Westling said. They're scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m. EDT that day in the U.S. Marshall's office in New Orleans.
The indictments stemmed from an ongoing investigation into an organization led by convicted murderer and drug kingpin Richard Pena, who pleaded guilty in January to avoid a death sentence and is serving life in prison, according to Ando.
Ando said Pena was "the most prolific and notorious drug dealer in the history of New Orleans." The kingpin also fashioned himself a hip-hop impresario, running clubs and record labels, partly to launder his drug profits, according to Ando.
Westling said Kane & Abel knew Pena, who ran Sheska Records, through the music business, but they didn't know he was a drug dealer. The lawyer said the charges are unfounded.
"Pena held himself out as a music person, and they met him ... at a rap convention here in New Orleans," Westling said. "My understanding is that he kind of sought them out to be close to people who were making it in the business. They had a friendship and they dealt with music issues together, but at the time Danny and David were college students at Xavier University here, just getting their career off the ground."
The lawyer said Kane & Abel, whose two albums were released by No Limit, "have done very well in the music business [and] have no motive to be involved. They have plenty of income from legitimate sources."
Ando would not detail Kane & Abel's alleged involvement in the drug ring.
According to Reuters, the brothers' indictment does not say when they reportedly engaged in drug trafficking, other than that it allegedly began before November 1996, nor does it cite how much cocaine may have been involved.
The DEA has been pursuing Pena's distributors and clients since his organization was shut down in 1997. More than 20 people have been convicted in the case, including three New Orleans police officers, Ando said.
"The drug-trafficking organization that Pena led was responsible for bringing thousands of kilos of cocaine into this area over the last several years," Ando said. "He not only employed people that were involved in drug trafficking in the middle-man kind of level, but he had police officers on his payroll, policeman who kidnapped people so they could be killed."
Pena also "began to affiliate himself with a lot of people involved in the music industry in one way or another, based on his effort to legitimize himself and to launder his money," Ando said.
"We're not targeting the music industry," he said. "We're not targeting rappers. We targeted Richard Pena, and as a result, we've targeted his suppliers, who have also been arrested out of Miami, and his main distributors. The fact that Kane & Abel [are involved in the investigation] and [so are] people who were otherwise involved in the fringes of the music industry is purely coincidence and purely of Pena's doing because he associated himself with that business."
But Westling said, "I believe part of the reason the government has targeted them is because of the kind of music they sing. The DEA wanted to get into the rap industry in order to find targets, and Danny and Dave's association with Richard Pena was a way to do that. In essence, [they're] trying to show that all rap artists are involved in drugs, because I think that's the DEA's theory."
Kane & Abel's second album, Am I My Brother's Keeper, debuted at
#1 on the Billboard R&B chart in July 1998. It features appearances
by several fellow No Limit rappers, including label head Master P, Snoop
Dogg, Silkk the Shocker, Mystikal, C-Murder and Mr. Serv-On. Opening with
"Time After Time," a song based on Cyndi Lauper's hit of the same name,
the album is mixture of head nodding and melodic beats enhanced by piano
and guitar, with some sexually explicit lyrics, as on "Out Of Town B's"
Kane & Abel were raised in the Bronx, N.Y., and, from an early age were shuffled from foster home to foster home. By 15, they were living with a family in New Orleans and had taken to rapping as an outlet to channel their frustrations. That upbringing "drives the emotion in our music," Kane (David Garcia), said in July. "It gives us more of an emotional twist."
Abel (Daniel Garcia) said the twins' background also helped keep them in check when their album hit the charts. "We don't take anything for granted," he explained. "We appreciate everything we've been given."
This month the twins published "Eyes of a Killer/Behind Enemy Lines," a book containing two novellas. "Eyes of a Killer" tells the story of a teen caught up in the New Orleans drug underworld.