THE CRAZY HOMICIDES: Twilight of the Old Brooklyn
Waxing nostalgic for a stylish street gang and the spirit of the city they tormented.
month I took a car service into Manhattan from my neighborhood in
Brooklyn. The driver was a Dominican or Puerto Rican about my age. The
conversation quickly embarked on “the changing of the neighborhood,”
the most common form of small talk in NY since ‘Where were you on
9-11?’ This stroll down memory lane turned into a’Where are they now?’ of a peculiar group of Brooklyn residents in the late 70’s-mid 80’s: The Crazy Homicides.
You could easily pick them out all over Park
Slope, Sunset Park and Gowanus, cause they had a specific style. They
all wore Civil War-type, Union cavalry hats–the kind with a small
bill and a flat droopy top, and motorcycle-type leather jackets. My driver gleefully boasted, “My brother was one of their leaders. He
was a very, very funny guy.” I was stunned and shot back, “I was
mugged once by a group of the them, and the one who did all the
talking, was in fact, very, very funny!” The driver, without any
sign of discomfort retorted “yep, that was probably my brother.”
He continued with a gushing description of one of his brother’s top
career accomplishments–a victorious battle about eight blocks from where
my recording studio was then, and is now. “[The rival gang] left
the pool hall and were hanging on 10th St. My brother knew that they
were waiting for more guys, so when they were about 30, he sent 20 of
his guys down from 5th Ave., and another 20 up from 4th Ave. He had them
trapped–six or seven of them ended up in the hospital.” Ahhhh–epic
So, this is how my own “funny” encounter with The Crazy Homicides went, 27 years ago.
was walking near my recording studio with Bill Laswell (Material, and
major record producer). He was my studio/roommate at the time. Three
Crazy Homicides approached from behind: “Hello, we’re Brooklyn muggers,
and you have to give us your money.” The put-on announcer voice was
disarming. I turn around to see three guys with big smiles, grasping
big screwdrivers, in Union cavalry hats. The jovial tone made me
decline the demand for money, and we kept walking.
Me and Laswell made
the mistake of starting to talk about music. “Oh, artists,” the funny
guy says. “Now we’ll have to throw you in the Gowanus Canal.” The canal
was, and is today, a fetid and toxic body of water on the edge of Park
Slope. I quickly coughed up $40.
The mugging really ate Laswell
up. A couple weeks later, we had seminal hip-hop artist Afrika
Bambaataa at the studio. Bam, as everyone calls him, had himself been
the leader of a gang in The Bronx called The Black Spades, that he
later transformed into the pacifist and utopian Zulu Nation. There
always were a handful of young devotees from the group following him
around. Laswell had the vision of a great moment, The Zulu Nation
taking an assertive stand against The Crazy Homicides in a defiant
display of confidence. So, off they all go for “a walk,” unbeknownst to
Bam, to find the Homicides.
Laswell spots a few of them in a Blimpie.
“Yo, why we goin’ to Blimpie?” Bam inquires.
Now Bam had quite a
gregarious style, as you might imagine an African king–leopard cap,
lots of jewelry, a staff. As they walk into Blimpie, the Homicides
turn to face Laswell and Bam in a moment of silence. Then one of them
bursts out: “Yo, it’s Mr. T !” The two watch stonefaced as the
Homicides burst into a torrent of laughter, practically falling out of
their seats. “Hey, Mr. T!”
(For those too young to remember, Mr T.
was a very popular black action movie and TV star who sported a heavy
gold jewelry style, years before mainstream rappers like LL Cool J and
Run DMC wore heavy gold chains.)
Back in the cab–2008–two
men from Park Slope, Brooklyn are reminiscing about a neighborhood
that’s practically been erased from memory. I found myself lamenting the
demise of a violent neighborhood gang, who had style and humor, and in
that sense seemed kind of smart. We arrived at my destination, and the
tone in the cab changed.
Sadness overtook the driver’s face
as he says, “Sorry about the $40.” I don’t think the look of sadness was
about the $40, because he still charged me $30 for the ride. I think
that in apologizing, it became clear that we’d moved forward, but that
there’s a trade-off. And that part of us that is mythologized with
Jesse James and the OK Corral, and Don Corleone in The Godfather, is
really just below the skin, periodically finding a toehold in our
By coincidence, I decided to buy a new lock
for my door tomorrow, because I didn’t feel safe enough. I think that
ties it together nicely.
Martin Bisi is an American producer and songwriter. Visit him at