“Been through hard times, even worked part-time/ In a Key Food store, sweeping floors sometimes,” rapped Kool G Rap back on 1989’s golden era rap standard “Road to the Riches.” So on a whim we asked Corona’s gangsta rap godfather about the line. He obliged and regaled us with an anecdote that involves the dutiful worker introducing his own line of locally-sourced inventory to the store.
On “Road To The Riches” you have a line about working in a Key Food supermarket. Was that true?
That was true.
Which Key Food store was it?
The Key Food store was in Brooklyn, off McGuinness Boulevard in Brooklyn. I was like 15-years-old working there and I was sweeping the floors. I was doing a little bit of everything: I was sweeping the floors; eventually I was stocking the shelves; I was getting all the shopping carts back. And then eventually I started selling a little bit of crack out of there!
When did you have the idea to sell crack out of Key Food?
I was doing it already outside of Key Food. Matter of fact, I was using the checks I got from Key Food to go by product. Then with one of my friends, we found a hotel they kinda converted to a Section 8 motel out in East Elmhurst, ’cause Corona’s not that far form East Elmhurst. It was a hotel not far from LaGuardia Airport and it had been converted to like a Section 8 motel and we met somebody in there one time. Then we met some girls that lived in there and we started selling out of the apartment. I was working at Key Food at the same time so I started bringing some of my product to work with me and people would come by. I had a couple of customers that would come see me every day.
What was your manager at Key Food like?
He was a dude of Spanish/Latino descent. He was cool. We only had one little run-in where he kinda tried to chastise me in front of the customers and I kinda screamed on him. I think I caught him by surprised. He was surprised by my reaction ’cause I wasn’t somebody that was gonna bite they tongue to save their job. But I was still a teen. It wasn’t like I was doing this to support a family or nothing, I was still a teen living with my mother. So to me, I wanted the job but it wasn’t that serious. So I kinda screamed on him and we understood each other after that. We never had a problem since then. He’s cool.
How long did you work at Key Food?
I was there for about one year. I just stopped going one day. One day I just stopped going to work and never called nobody and never said nothing to nobody. I just stopped going and I started doing things in the street at 15-years-old. I gained an appetite for bigger money.
Do you have any regrets about those days?
Yeah, I was never proud to participate in any of the street activities that I was involved in that I did back then. This is why when Eric B introduced me to DJ Polo, and the first time Polo took me to Marley [Marl’s] house, I never went back to the block again to continue what I was doing. Once I met Marley, I felt no need to be out there in the street again. So I was never proud of it. I don’t really regret too many things in my life and too many choices I made, but I don’t take pride in selling drugs and stuff like that. You get the rappers that brag about it and things like that, because we live in the day where the music scene and the records are cool when the artists are saying that — “I sold this and that, I flipped this into that” — but they get that from us, the cats from my era. ‘Cause I was talking about things that were going on but I wasn’t really glorifying that — I was just saying what I was doing ’cause I was caught up in the street life and I was doing this to put money in my pocket. You can see in the record “Road To The Riches,” I wasn’t really glorifying it, I was just speaking about my experiences to whoever I thought would listen at the time.