“I think I’m Big Meech, Larry Hoover. Real niggas gettin’ money from the fucking start.”
Rick Ross – B.M.F. ft. Styles P
“Big Meech” is a name synonymous with rappers like T.I., Fabolous to Rick Ross, and Young Jeezy; with people crediting Big Meech for helping to launch Jeezy’s career despite Jeezy never signing to Meech’s label. In 2007, the Detroit native even teamed up with a then 14-year old singer Keke Palmer known for her roles on the Disney Channel further placing his stamp on Black artists in the music industry.
But who is Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory, the man behind the music? A hard-working entrepreneur who was determined to pull his family out of Detroit’s impoverished neighborhoods by any means necessary or the ruthless rulers of the drug underworld? How does two brothers, Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory and Terry “Southwest T” Flenory, possessed with just their natural instincts and street smarts go on to become one of the most biggest drug trafficking and money laundering organization in the United States making over $270 million? And how did it all come crashing down in 2005 when over 1000 members of the Black Family Mafia was indicted.
That was a question even Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson wondered. With cocaine distribution sells in numerous U.S. states including Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee; the Flenory’s name was everywhere and the story of the Flenory’s rise to fame to infamy was a story Curtis decided the world should know.
Inspired by the true story of two brothers who rose from the decaying streets of southwest Detroit in the late 1980s and gave birth to one of the most influential crime families in this country. Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory’s charismatic leadership, Terry “Southwest T” Flenory’s business acumen and the fraternal partnership’s vision beyond the drug trade and into the world of hip hop would render the brothers iconic on a global level. Their unwavering belief in family loyalty would be the cornerstone of their partnership and the crux of their eventual estrangement. This is a story about love, family, and capitalism in the pursuit of the American dream.
To celebrate the show’s successful first season and long-awaited finale tonight on Starz, The Koalition spoke to Executive Producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson during the Television critics Association (TCA) about the eight-episode series, the versatility of his projects, why BMF matters, and more.
While Curtis is no stranger to the crime family TV show genre with the Power Universe and For Life under his G-Unit Films and Television Inc. banner, BMF is his just his second TV show based on a true story and inspired by real events. “The difference between Power is it’s a complete fictional story that is a spin of some of my experiences and different things that went on around me in my life. So that versus a true story is a completely different project. BMF is significant culturally and is organically the bigger version of Power. This is why I constantly said it would outperform Power from the beginning.”
Creating a show inspired by a true story can have its challenges but BMF presented a new challenges as it blends reality with fiction feeling more like a thriller than a biopic. Created and written by Randy Huggins’ and Curtis, they had to craft a compelling storyline that starts in the late 1980s accurately depicting the real lifestyle and the environment that helped shaped who Demetrius Flenory and Terry Flenory, would become. Casting those two main roles was the most crucial part of it all. Bringing on 21-year-old Demetrius “Lil Meech” Flenory Jr. to play his own father was critical to Curtis when creating the series, and it added to the authenticity of the story. However, from the opening credits the show never shies away from letting audiences know lines of truthfulness may be blurred.
“More things happened than things didn’t. There’s a point where the [facts are stranger than fiction]. It just allowed the creative discussion for Randy to tie things together and to put together the best possible television project.”
“[When] telling a story on a microphone, usually you condition yourself; you work until you’re really comfortable with the process and simplicity is a big key to the success of those projects. When I say, “Go Shorty, it’s your birthday,” it’s not rocket science. And every day is someone’s birthday that keeps that continuing interest in it. But in the storytelling process on television, it’s almost never right the first time. There’s always notes.”
“There’s different changes and it morphs into what you end up seeing. No matter how talented the writer is, [even if] they had a blockbuster season the first season, second season, the executives are sitting in there and they don’t know why they’re receiving a check if they don’t give you a note. Sometimes notes are very vague and it doesn’t mean much to the storytelling process, but they’re going to give you something. You gotta be preconditioned for that as a writer to not feel there’s a problem and just adjust and come back with quality material.”
From the very beginning of the series, executive producers Randy Huggins and Curtis drop us into the genesis of the Flenory brothers’ empire, peeling back some unexpected layers. The first episode starts off in 2005 with urban elements that let the viewer know you’re looking at Detroit: the Renaissance Center, a block party, ghetto tech music, dancers jitting, and Demetrius (played by his son Demetrius Flenory Jr.) yelling, “What up doe!” The scene immediately quantum leaps back to the 1980s Sammy Davis Jr.’s rendition of “Hello Detroit” is circulating through the Flenory’s Southwest Detroit home.
Being able to pull back the layers to getting to the root of the characters and building the world they lived in was a very difficult challenge. “One of the first things is I spent a lot of time talking to Demetrius Flenory, going to prison to see Demetrius Flenory. I spent a lot of time talking to Terry Flenory, to Lucille, talking to everybody. So once I heard it, then I’m able to build it. Most of the stuff in our story is factual. But I may have to bend it to make a certain arc work because at the end of the day we are in the business of entertaining people. As much as it’s about Meech and Terry, it’s also about Detroit. [I want our audience to] get into the rich history [it] has to offer during that era of the 1980s.”
“We started with the origin story, so we went back to Detroit. It’s important [to] see that so they understand how they evolved into the situation that they were at. We could’ve just went to Atlanta and stayed in Atlanta at their heyday for seven seasons but Randy chose to take us back and to have an understanding of what that journey was like. So many artists were connected to this at the same time that it makes it organically the biggest story to tell coming away from Power and when they get into the details of everything that was going on, [you realize it’s] not about selling drugs. It’s about the two brothers and their journey and how that evolved into something different in direction. It’s more complex than the outer — when I say ‘BMF, you think blowing money fast,’ but it’s so [much more] — it’s not necessarily Black Mafia Family.”
While it’s easy for people who have no connections to these stories or lifestyles to judge these characters and their actions, thinking BMF ‘glorifies violence’, the writers explicitly show how the illegal drug industry devastated the lives and livelihoods of thousands. When the marginalized tell their own stories, mainstream mindsets fail to understand the complexities of a character turning to a life of crime or the lack of options given to underdeveloped and impoverished communities in America.
“There is a huge separation between entertainment and reality. And the people who don’t — can’t differentiate that should be in mental institutions because they have issues where they can’t separate their reality from what they’re actually watching. When you watch Forensic Files, does it make you feel like you should just go kill somebody, just don’t do it the way that person did it when you see how they get caught? You don’t do that. When you look at the nucleus in that time period, let’s not escape the fact of how the drugs got into the communities Because that’s when it doesn’t seem like they’re glorifying it.”
“When you see the CIA is actually letting the drugs into the communities at that point and creating higher penalties for people who have crack cocaine, which is a lot cheaper than people who have the cocaine that was present in those Hollywood bathrooms where people were having a great time at that party, sniffing cocaine, and enjoying themselves. It’s the same drug but different penalties because the lower-income people who have this drug to get higher faster.”
“I think people [think] they’re righteous or wanting to be the on the right tone or offer the right notes, does not necessarily connect with entertaining people the right way and the truth of an experience. If we picked everything based on how we were trying to influence people to do things, then it wouldn’t be almost mandatory to offer some sort of nontraditional choices of sexuality or the other things you see consistently in these projects that people — it’s almost mandatory that you offer it at points because they’re pushing that agenda.”
“If you don’t see it, let me tell you early that that’s what they’re doing. When they ask for a female to have a strong female presence in an actual show, when they ask to have a female director involved in the show, all these things are things we’re doing to shape how things result later. But these things are part of an agenda. What was the opportunity that what could potentially offer them the ability to go after the American dream itself? It’s financial freedom that they’re going after in this actual project. And I understand what people misinterpret or look at it and say, ‘Look, this is another successful drug dealer.’
“All of my shows are drug dealer shows. Even when the person is being convicted wrongfully and thrown in jail for 70 years plus life — the ABC show, For Life — because in that time period, this is what was going on culturally all over the place. But you can miss that and be judgmental and it won’t matter. It’ll be one write up and this will be extremely successful regardless.”
“I don’t look for the acknowledgement from award shows or anything like. I look at the numbers. I’ll be number one for African Americans and Latinos, and have a bigger audience than you’ve seen before. Even with Power. Pick anything I’ve done that you think was great and then watch BMF exceed that.