Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler (Paperback)
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by Azie Faison (Author), Agyei Tyehimba (Author)
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Atria (August 7, 2007)
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
"Open the safe, nigga! Open the fuckin' safe now, or I'm gonna kill everybody in
this bitch! Hurry up, motherfucka..." That's the last thing he said before he
hit me hard in the head with the butt of his gun, causing blood to flow into my
eyes. Shaking with fear and numb from the pain, I tried to respond: "Look,
man...The blood is blinding me. I can't see! I don't have no money in the safe
anyway. Just let everybody go...I'll get you some money. They don't got nothin'
to do with this."
I was on my knees, bent over, with blood pouring out of my head. I felt no pain;
I was numb. This was my judgment day -- payment for all my sins. God lost
patience with me. Instead of listening, I ignored the Lord's warnings and turned
my back on Him. I heard His voice throughout the years, but I wasn't sure it was
Him. So there I was. My head was spinning, my heart was pounding, and my eyes
were stinging from the sticky blood pouring into them.
Stumbling around in pain, I managed to clear some blood from my eyes using my
shirt. What I saw took my breath away: Five people, including my aunt and my
best friend, were tied up in my aunt's bedroom. They were handcuffed and lying
facedown, pleading for their lives. By nightfall, my aunt, her friend, and my
best friend were pronounced dead. Two more people survived, but they sustained
serious wounds. As for me, I took two shots to my head at point-blank range, and
seven more: one to my neck, another in my shoulder, and the rest in my leg. I
was shot nine times. I saw a bright light and my body felt like it was rising
toward the light.
"We're losing him, we're losing him. He won't make it." The paramedics who
rushed me to the hospital had no reason to believe I'd survive. In fact, I
didn't survive...at least the old me didn't. On that day, the old me was killed
so a new me could be reborn.
People who lived in New York City, especially Harlem, during the eighties and
nineties regard me as a street legend. I made millions before I was old enough
to vote, which allowed me to live a life most people only dream of living.
Customized cars, fine women, property, and street respect were my way of life. I
spent money at will and made it possible for many people in Harlem to eat and
pay bills. Along with my associates, Rich Porter and "Alpo," I had no way of
knowing that years down the road, our lifestyles would influence music,
clothing, and even Hollywood.
How did I get so much money and influence at such a young age? I was a
hustler...yeah, I sold drugs. I did my thing during the Pablo Escobar-Manuel
Noriega-Oliver North era. Throughout the eighties and nineties, I probably sold
enough cocaine to make it snow in New York City.
But anything built on negativity will eventually bring destruction to those who
profit from it. In the end, we all paid a huge price for the fame and wealth we
got by selling drugs. The drug game forced me to experience things that changed
my life forever.
I was born in a Bronx hospital on November 10, 1964. I lived the first six years
of my life between 165th and 167th Streets and Clay Avenue. We lived in a poor
neighborhood, and like many other families on the block, we received public
assistance, or welfare.
Many people like to say, "Even though we were poor, I never knew we were poor."
I think people say that to show respect to their parents for trying to make ends
meet. My parents did the best they could, given our situation. Poverty, like
wealth, is something that is both hard to hide and hard to deny. I couldn't
escape the reality that my family was poor. Everything from where we lived to
how we lived, reminded us we were poor.
I had seven brothers and sisters: Wanda was the oldest, then came Kevin, Robin,
Rosalyn (also known as "Pie"), me, Julie, Ingrid, and Wayne. Out of my sisters,
Robin was my favorite because she knew how to mind her business and she knew
plenty of street cats who made big money growing up.
I'll never forget when Wanda ran away from home to be with her boyfriend at the
time. She returned months later...and she was pregnant! My mother greeted her
with open arms. I guess she was just happy to have her firstborn back home.
My little sister Ingrid was my little baby girl. I was proud of her because she
graduated from A. Phillip Randolph High School, located on the City College
campus, and eventually did a year of college. By Ingrid's senior year in high
school, I told her that when she graduated I would buy her a car. I was about
twenty-one years old at the time, and I kept my promise.
My brother Kevin graduated from John F. Kennedy High School, and entered the
United States Marine Corps. He only stayed for a couple of months before he
received a dishonorable discharge. I believe it had something to do with him
Wayne was the baby of the family, and like most babies, he was spoiled. He never
wanted for anything. When I got into the game and had major money, I bought
Wayne and my nephew hot dirt bikes one Christmas. They became the envy of the
block, since most kids barely had regular bikes at the time.
My sister Pie was something else. At Stitt Junior High, she won the beauty
pageant, which made her and me very popular in the school. Julie was always very
quiet and reserved. She stayed to herself or under my mother.
Things were so tight back then that nine of us lived in a one-bedroom apartment.
My parents occupied the bedroom, and we slept in the living room on a pullout
couch or the floor.
To be fair, we took turns sleeping on the couch. Everyone hated the floor
because you usually woke up with a permanent crick in your neck and a sore back.
On the nights I had the floor, I used pillows to cushion myself. It wasn't
comfortable, but we didn't have a choice so we made the best of it. Poverty robs
you of options.
Poverty also influences your decisions. For example, not having much money
actually motivated us to attend school every day (although we didn't always stay
in school all day). We appreciated school not just for the lessons, or the
friendships we made, but because it provided us with two hot meals daily. We all
went to school early to get breakfast, and never missed lunch. Dinner was the
only meal we had at home during the week, and usually this consisted of a
bologna or ham sandwich and some juice or milk.
My mother, Margaret Rogers, was a native New Yorker. She met my father when she
was twenty years old; he was forty. I figure she wanted to get with an older man
who could provide her with a good quality of life.
Short, fair-skinned, and heavyset, my mother was a housewife who wanted to enjoy
life's finer things, having grown up poor herself. Unfortunately, my father's
salary could not support her desires. As a result, she constantly reminded my
father of how broke we were.
My mother was always a great cook. She made huge feasts for the holidays, and we
couldn't wait to get our hands on her apple cobbler and smothered turkey wings.
I liked everything she cooked with the exception of chitlins -- the entire house
smelled like shit whenever she prepared them. She believed everyone had the
right to eat and eat well. In fact, people would often knock on our door, and my
mother would make them plates with no hesitation.
My father, Azie Faison, Sr., was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He
stood about five feet nine and wasn't very large, but he carried himself like a
giant. He was dark-skinned with strong, proud facial features. He had jet-black
hair like a Native American and honest, penetrating eyes that looked right
My mother taught me the importance of making money. My father, on the other
hand, taught me how to be a man. He wasn't just a man; he was the man. He was
the most humble and reliable person I've ever known. He moved furniture for a
living so he didn't make a lot of money. But he worked hard to support our
household. Unlike many men at the time, he didn't smoke, drink, gamble, chase
women, or maintain a fancy wardrobe.
My father didn't try to be something he wasn't and he didn't change for anybody.
I remember times my mother would have some girlfriends over at the house,
laughing and gossiping. My father would sit quietly in his chair watching
television. Once they left, my father would mutter, "Thank God. Now I can relax
and have my space." Privacy and humility were important to him. I never remember
anyone saying a bad word about him.
When I got involved with the drug game, my father was the only family member who
didn't ask me for money or presents. He told me he "wanted nothing to do with my
It wasn't until I began selling coke, around 1983, that I had huge knots of
cash. I felt like I was the man because I brought in more money in a week than
my father did in a year. Cocaine sales made me the main breadwinner in the
house. I paid the rent, bought food and items for the apartment, and gave my
mother rolls of money whenever she needed it. I figured that since I took care
of the home, nobody could tell me shit.
And it seemed like everybody in the house respected my authority -- everybody
except my father. My money didn't mean shit to him. He refused my money and
demanded my mother do the same (although my mom had no problems accepting it
when he wasn't around). As far as he was concerned, he was the man of the house,
and still had the authority to regulate his children. He proved that one day
when he came into my room and caught me bagging up some coke. I had shit
everywhere: a huge mound of coke, baggies, a scale, and hundreds of little
"What's this? What are you doing in my house?" he asked. "You get involved with
those drugs and you're gonna pay," he warned. "And if you are selling that
poison, I don't want nothing to do with you until you stop."
I ignored every word and didn't even reply. In my ignorance (and arrogance) I
shut him down and shrugged him off. That was the turning point in our
relationship. For the first time, I didn't yield to his authority. He shook