Was the rap group Wu-Tang Clan just a bunch of gangsters? If you asked the FBI in the early '00s, that answer may have just been a resounding yes. In 2004, RZA, Raekwon and the rest of the gang were cleared following a five year investigation into Wu-Tang's drug use and possible gang connections, but the FBI's habit of questioning black artists has a much deeper history.
In 1989, the FBI's assistant director of public affairs sent a letter to Brian Turner, the president of Priority Records, objecting to N.W.A's infamous song "F*ck Tha Police." That famed incident was just a blip on the FBI's radar; their business-as-usual includes interrogating musical artists over their lyrical content. N.W.A and Wu-Tang Clan join a long list of FBI-investigated artists and musicians that includes the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, the Kingsmen, Insane Clown Posse and even comedian Kathy Griffin. Both Inane Clown Posse and Wu-Tang Clan have been labeled major crime organizations alongside infamous street gangs like the Bloods and the Crips.
So why did the FBI investigate Wu-Tang Clan in the first place, and is there any truth to the bureau's claims? The story begins with the murder of two drug dealers and slowly fizzles out as justice is served.
To some of us, they're a legendary rap collective. To others, they're literal gangers. In 1999, the FBI labeled the Wu Tang Clan a "major criminal organization" after opening an investigation on Russell Tyreese Jones (Ol' Dirty Bastard). The FBI investigation stemmed from a tip given by the NYPD, who were investigating the murders of two drug dealers.
The FBI's file on Wu-Tang Clan is long, and throughout it alludes to the fact that the rap collective is real-life gang capable of running major conspiracies like money laundering and murder. According to the document, Wu-Tang Clan was “heavily involved in the sale of drugs, illegal guns, weapons possession, murder, carjackings, and other types of violent crimes.” The 94-page report was given a "281F" classification code, the code specifically reserved for "major criminal organizations."
The FBI's list of possible crimes tied to the Wu-Tang Clan is extensive, but murder was always at the forefront. The FBI first had their suspicions about Wu-Tang after Brian Humphreys was arrested for the murder of Jerome Estrella (AKA Boo Boo) on June 20, 1999. The killer, who confessed to his crime, testified against Staten Island drug kingpins Anthony and Harvey Christian in exchange for a deal. In his testimony, he suggested that RZA ordered a hit on Estrella after Estrella robbed his brother.
In 2015, further information not previously found in the heavily-redacted FBI dossier was released to Anthony Christian's lawyer in a prosecutor's filing.
"A couple of weeks before the Boo Boo shooting, Uncles (informant Paul Ford) told Humphreys about a Blood named Boo Boo who just came home from jail. He stated that Boo Boo had robbed RZA's little brother and had also gotten into something with the Christian brothers," read the filing. "Uncles was talking about Boo Boo and said that he had just come home and robbed RZA's brother and that they would likely come after him for that. Humphreys believes Uncles was referring to members of Wu-Tang."
Despite the FBI's suspicions, RZA was never charged with the murder of 17-year-old Jerome Estrella, and in October of 2014, Anthony and Harvey Christian were found responsible.
Jerome Estrella's death wasn't the only murder the FBI linked to Wu-Tang Clan. According to the massive FBI file, an alleged Wu-Tang associate named "Fife" was involved in the death of drug dealer Corey Booker. The shootout and subsequent carjacking erupted during a Staten Island angel dust and PCP deal gone wrong.
Though Corey Booker's name was redacted in the widely spread file, it resurfaced again in 2015 amidst a yearlong effort by Michael Gold, the attorney of Staten Island drug kingpin Anthony Christian, who hoped to get prosecutors to reopen Wu-Tang's investigation. The newly resurfaced dossier outlined conversations with FBI informant Paul Ford that alleged RZA put a $30,000 hit on Corey Booker after he robbed RZA's brother and Raekwon's cousin.
Corey Booker's murder was never solved and neither RZA or Raekwon were ever charged.
According to the FBI's massive Wu-Tang dossier, the rap group was deeply affiliated with the Bloods. Testimony during Jerome Estella's murder trial showed that in the very least RZA and Raekwon were acquaintances of Staten Island drug kingpins Anthony and Harvey Christian. Brian Humphreys, the trigger-man in Jerome Estrella's murder, was also associated with the infamous gang. It was his testimony that led the FBI to believe the Bloods sometimes did Wu-Tang's dirty work. The massive dossier read:
"It is believed that [redacted] sometimes carry out enforcement actions for the WTC, which include beatings, shootings, and murder.”
Furthermore, Fife, the alleged Wu-Tang associate who was thought to have murdered Corey Booker on behalf of RZA, was also a member of the Bloods. The FBI requested permission to further investigate Wu-Tang's links with the Bloods. They wanted to swap and compare information "relating to the drug business of the Bloods street gang and the Wu-Tang Clan" with the FBI's field office in Allentown, Pennsylvania.