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    1. #1
      IfasehunReincarnated's Avatar
      IfasehunReincarnated is offline Never Let Them Disrespect the Ancestors

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      DonDiva, F.E.D.S., Felon - What?


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      "Gangsta' magazines such as DonDiva boast that they tell the truth about the criminal life. Critics accuse them of glorifying it.




      By MARCUS FRANKLIN, Times Staff Writer
      Published January 23, 2005


      The parental advisory on the cover of DonDiva magazine warns: gangsta content.

      The glossy quarterly strives mightily to live up to that small label.

      Within DonDiva, articles chart the often flamboyant rise, and often equally dramatic fall, of underworld figures. Periodically, the magazine publishes photos of known government witnesses, stamping each a "certified rat."
      The glossy quarterly strives mightily to live up to that small label.

      Within DonDiva, articles chart the often flamboyant rise, and often equally dramatic fall, of underworld figures. Periodically, the magazine publishes photos of known government witnesses, stamping each a "certified rat."

      Legal stories offer the latest news on drug, gun and conspiracy laws. Celebrity profiles - often rappers, singers or actors with grimy images or former prison addresses - alternate with ads for low-budget movies and clothing, as well as vodka and fancy cars.

      DonDiva, which bills itself as the "original street bible," is one of at least three "gangsta mags" to pop up in recent years on newsstands and other, less expected retail spaces. Locally, they're sold at beeper shops and record stores.

      Critics have accused the magazines of serving as how-to manuals for criminals, as well as providing a journalistic stage for outlaws.

      The magazines' creators maintain that their publications function as deterrents, stripping the luster from a lifestyle regularly documented - and sometimes venerated - in rap and other entertainment.

      Their coverage of criminals, the editors say, is no different from how mainstream media recount the scandalous descents of white-collar crime defendants such as former Enron head Kenneth Lay and past Tyco chief executive Dennis Kozlowski.

      "A lot of people say we're a how-to manual for criminals. Nothing could be further from the truth," Tiffany Chiles, DonDiva's 34-year-old founder and editor, said in a telephone interview from her Harlem offices. "We're getting these people (criminals) to tell (readers) that crime doesn't pay. That's the business of why we do what we do."

      Given that prison, street and criminal cultures continue to influence popular culture , observers say, it's only logical that they have seeped into the pages of magazines.

      * * *

      The idea to start DonDiva came from a Pennsylvania federal prison, where Chiles' husband, Kevin Chiles, was serving time for financing a record label with money from his cocaine business.

      During weekend visits before his release in 2003, Tiffany Chiles usually chatted with her husband and other inmates about life outside prison, their court trials and doing time. On one visit, Kevin Chiles suggested his wife start a magazine.

      "The gangster lifestyle is being glamorized so much by entertainment," Tiffany Chiles said. "There are real lives behind these stories.

      "If it wasn't for his situation, DonDiva wouldn't exist."

      In 1999, using money she'd saved from her music-marketing job, Chiles launched the magazine, which publishes both a front and back cover.

      The magazine's mission can be likened to cherry-flavored cough syrup: Draw readers in with flavorful eye candy (nearly nude women) and celebrity interviews, then feed them "valuable" information.

      In one issue, for example, rapper Beanie Sigel, who's serving time for gun possession, appears on one cover of the magazine while "The Kevin Chiles Story" occupies the other side.

      Other covers have included staged photographs of a group of preteenage boys packaging what appears to be cocaine. The story inside explores the defunct E. Port Posse in Elizabeth, N.J., Chiles said.

      "They all were incarcerated - the ones who survived - by the time they turned 18," Chiles said.

      Between the covers, there are profiles of people such as G-Unit rapper Tony Yayo, who has served prison time, as well as stories on "credit card kingpin Victor Woods," who "walks DonDiva through ... the $40-million credit card scam that got him a bid in federal prison."

      There's also Hustler's Handbook, a feature that breaks down the "felon in possession" gun law underpinning Sigel's conviction, and federal mandatory minimum-sentencing guidelines for drug crimes.

      "We're trying to bring our readers valuable information and news that's relevant to them, but we package it with some entertainment," said Chiles, who says that 5,000 to 7,000 readers, some of them prison inmates, subscribe to DonDiva.

      "They need to know about mandatory minimums. They need to know that once you become a felon you lose a lot of your basic citizen rights. For example, you can't get financial aid."

      Apparently, some readers relate. "Felons have no rights!" Tania Jones, a Detroit reader, wrote in a letter to the editor published in response to a story about felons' loss of rights. "It felt like you were writing my life story."

      Early on, Chiles couldn't get advertisers. "You're too hard-core,"' she said companies told her. "Which basically meant too real."

      Then rappers started hyping the magazine, posing for photos while holding copies, she said. They also rapped about it. Foxy Brown rhymed on the remix of Amerie's Talkin' To Me: This streets chose me/ delayin' for The Fever/ Catch ya young girl on the cover of DonDiva.

      "It doesn't glorify the street life," Chiles said of her magazine, of which there's now a British edition. "We shed light on truism. We tell the truth. This is what's actually going on.

      "It's always been a deterrent. Their stories always end in tragedy."

      * * *

      In the music industry today, street credibility is like fairy dust. And rather than sprinkling it on, musicians, especially rappers, often pour it on.

      No rapper - the new rocker and ultimate bad boy - has gained as much mileage from the street shtick in the past couple of years as 50 Cent, who has appeared on DonDiva's cover.

      A few facts swirled relentlessly around the February 2003 release of his debut CD, Get Rich or Die Tryin': The rapper survived nine gunshot wounds; he was convicted of drug possession; and his mother, once a well-known New York hustler, was murdered.

      Get Rich has sold more than 7-million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks sales of music.

      "Part of 50 Cent's appeal has to do with his reality, his past, his otherwise unfortunate situations - his gangsta," Sacha Jenkins wrote last May in a Vibe cover story on the rapper. "(R)ight now, the dominant culture of hip hop respects gangsta more than anything else."

      Another New York rapper, Shyne, last year signed a multimillion-dollar record deal while serving a 10-year prison sentence. And last June, Atlanta rapper T.I. shot a video in the Fulton County Jail while serving time for a parole violation.

      Singer Lyfe, who included his former Ohio prison inmate number in the title of his 2004 debut CD, Lyfe 268-192, croons about everything from finding strength in God to once being a Stick Up Kid, a track on the CD. "I want to sing about what's going on in the streets," he told Vibe last year.

      Another singer, Akon, whom the magazine has written about, turned a prison bid into last year's top 10 R&B/hip-hop hit Locked Up.

      "A lot of artists like to be in the magazine because it gives them street credibility," said former Vibe editor-in-chief Emil Wilbekin.



      * * *

      Baggy jeans. Dickies. Laceless sneakers. All fashion trends straight out of the country's record 2-million-plus prison population.

      In a nation filled with reality voyeurs and obsessed with shows such as Growing Up Gotti and The Sopranos, movies such as Scarface and real-life characters such as convicted mobster John Gotti, DonDiva and similar magazines make sense, Wilbekin said.

      ""DonDiva is a very smart idea in publishing," said Wilbekin, who in 2002 won a National Magazine Award.

      "It covers a world that mainstream publishing doesn't necessarily cover. They're interesting stories and that's what journalism's about, telling interesting stories.

      ""DonDiva and (similar magazines) represent another way that hip-hop has expanded its world the same way that in the '60s Rolling Stone and Cream covered rock 'n' roll," said Wilbekin, 37, now vice president of brand development at the urban streetwear company Marc Ecko.

      But others pooh-pooh the magazines. Cultural critic Stanley Crouch, who has likened rappers to modern-day minstrels and Davy Crockett, blasted the publications.

      Crouch said magazines such as DonDiva trumpet the same kind of anti-intellectualism and antiestablishment posturing found in the early 1800s, when European immigrants, obsessed with the "common man," rejected everything European and refined.

      "These people can't be looked upon as heroic," Crouch said of the magazines' subjects. "What they do to their communities and young people, the level of chaos that they create in these communities, is not something to be admired.

      "Unless these magazines are actually dedicated to making clear what kind of low-down, misogynist scum these people are - pimps, thieves, criminals, not heroes - there's absolutely no value."

      But others see the publications merely as chroniclers of real life. "Those magazines are not inventing stuff," said Samir Husni, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi and a magazine consultant.

      Antoine Clark started F.E.D.S., or Finally Every Dimension of the Streets, in 1998.

      Stories include: "George Jung, Pablo Escobar & the Medellin Cartel were responsible for 90% of the Cocaine in the United States in the 1980s."

      And: "Pee Wee Kirkland, once known by New York's Federal Agents as one of New York's largest drug dealers in the 60s and 70s, Changed his life, and wants to explain why others should follow his footsteps."

      "We show the downside of what's going on in the streets and try to scare people straight," Clark told the Columbia University News Service.

      But for all the truth they tell, DonDiva, F.E.D.S. and Felon, a third magazine launched in 2001 by one of DonDiva's founders, will never gain the mass readerships of The Source, Vibe, and Rolling Stone, Wilbekin and Husni said.



      Instead, they'll remain "very niche-oriented" with "cult followers" such as High Times, a magazine dedicated to marijuana, and Soldier of Fortune, a magazine about mercenaries, Husni said.

      Still, Husni said, DonDiva and others like it appeal to regular people with a fascination with the criminal world, as well as to prisoners and criminals.

      "Nobody is going to read those magazines to be a criminal," Husni said. "You don't need a manual for that."

      Wilbekin, the former Vibe editor, agreed.

      "We see tons of examples of white-collar crime reported in Vanity Fair and Newsweek and Time and those magazines aren't criticized for perpetuating white-collar crime.

      "I don't think they're reading DonDiva to find out how to become a gangster, but to find out how prisons and gangster culture relate to hip-hop and the 'hood and how they influence mainstream culture."

      Marcus Franklin can be reached at mfranklin@sptimes.com or 727 893-8488.

      © Copyright 2003 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved

      All is Well. Workin' Hard - Tryin' to Save Time for Fam. Check in Periodically.

    2. #2
      SoularFlarez's Avatar
      SoularFlarez is offline Her-Em-Akhet

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      Ive read a few issues and tha interviews of criminals n convicts in there DO KEEP IT REAL in so far as warnen ppl not to go same path they did 4 da most part...interviews wit lifers,people who lost family etc letters from bros in there...read it 4 yaselves to get a feel for it

      one of tha last ones i read was bout Larry Hoover ( Gangster Disciples ) it was 2 years ago i guess

    3. #3
      IfasehunReincarnated's Avatar
      IfasehunReincarnated is offline Never Let Them Disrespect the Ancestors

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      Do you think those messages of "don't go the same path" are as POWERFUL as those messages of "i was so rich and so powerful" before i got caught?

      seems we usd the same excuse to get "gangster rap" endorsed by the masses. i dont hear nothing more powerful than the "i am dangerous and rich" message.
      All is Well. Workin' Hard - Tryin' to Save Time for Fam. Check in Periodically.

    4. #4
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      SoularFlarez is offline Her-Em-Akhet

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      Peace fam

      truuuu....i see where U comen from

      haven read a few issues tha "life"(death) is hyped up 2 a degree,cuz lets face it thats wat SELLS these days.....but when I read tha whole issue it was balanced wit tha negatives...of course MANY PEOPLE wont think bout those or skip over them parts ya nah mean !!


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