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Friday, September 23, 2011
The one photo Greg Selinger doesn't want you to see in an election brochure
A photograph of a celebration has been circulating around town. It's of a local rap and hip hop label, Heatbag Records, and their top act, Winnipeg's Most.
The photograph which we acquired, shows NDP Premier Greg Selinger with 6 men associated with the label. He is smiling widely, while holding outstretched a black Heatbag Records bandana.
At times those bandanas been seen online brandished as gangster-wear to conceal rappers' faces in photos and videos, or as a costume for some very attractive young women who pose on social media barely wearing it. In hip-hop culture, a bandana represents the thug life values the gangster rappers glorify - pro-drug, anti-police, settling scores - which infects the lives of thousands of young Manitobans.
Selinger seems quite pleased to be associated with a popular and successful music act and the crew is definately glad to have a picture like this in their back pockets.
But Manitoba Justice officials cringe at this photo. They know exactly who the rappers are. Justice officials are all too aware of who is involved in Heatbag and how their "other records" - not music, but with the courts - are a microcosm of the failure for over a decade of the crime and justice platform of the NDP. And Greg Selinger is smiling at the camera and waving their flag.
Among Selinger's associates, convictions have been registered for drug trafficking, sex offences, and breach of probation, and charges are pending for assaults, more trafficking, weapons, probation breaches, and skipping court.
Police sources tell TGCTS that at least two people in the picture have associations with the Manitoba Warriors. Officers are told to consider them armed and dangerous, and to be approached with caution.
As he campaigns for re-relection, Selinger wants credit for being tough on crime. But what justice officials see in this photograph is how easily Selinger was duped by the street-wise rappers, who have benefitted from the NDP's hug-a-thug holistic approach to crime. The picture has been going around for months, but nobody realized its significance until The Great Canadian Talk Show identified the players and discovered their criminal records.
Charlie Fettah, seen second from the left, made the news in 2008 as part of a simmering dispute involving shotguns and a "rap beef" between Heatbag and a rival group.
"Heatbag is self-described as "not really a label, but a crew."
By the following March a follow-up story made clear, they see themselves as victims of stereotypes and oppression, and claim they are not gangsters but are misunderstood and mistreated. Assurances were made they are on the straight and narrow despite a leaked video showing them threatening retaliation.
Local rappers' gun-toting video on web
Group linked to string of violent incidents
By: Mike McIntyre and James Turner
Updated: September 17 2008
at 02:55 AM CDT
Fettah disputes the categorization of Heatbag as a gang. He said it's a label police and justice officials have made up to keep members away from each other by virtue of widely used court orders to not associate with known gang members.
Since being released from Stony Mountain in November, where he was serving a drug-related sentence, Fettah said he's been relentlessly pulled over by police looking for contraband in his car. Fettah swears he has left the criminal life behind and says he is now coaching kids to stay away from drugs and speaking about his street life. "
The story gave no background on Fettah's "drug-related sentence", or why police might have had reason to keep a close eye on him when he got out of Stony. It would have been instructive for the public to do so.
Court records reveal he was sentenced to 5 years in Stony -- for being a drug trafficker.
As part of the deal, he served no additonal time on another charge - for altering a serial number of a gun.
The Crown dropped 2 other firearms-related counts and one of possessing property obtained by crime.
In essence it was a 5 for 1 deal, and within 20 months, Fettah was back in circulation, rappin'.
After the awards for their music rolled in and legitimized the group with the media, label general manager Jon-C continued the PR spin. While he told the Free Press last December that he and his peers have been victims of police profiling and racism, he assured his fans that he abided by the gang code of refusing to cooperate with authorities and that police are not to be trusted.
Three-man crew dispels myths of aboriginal hip hop
By: Alexandra Paul
Jon C says police pulled him in for questioning two years ago before Winnipeg's Most hit it big. "I was true to the streets. I didn't say a word."
Jon C says the cops thought the rappers were a street gang and he was their leader.
Early gigs drew an unwelcome police presence; fans were carded for IDs, one club was surrounded. The rappers still get angry talking about it.
"They've laid off now," Jon C said.
Suspicion of police, after the triple shooting in the North End in October, doesn't surprise local rappers.
There is an atmosphere of fear in the North End that wasn't there before the two men died and a girl, 13, was shot in the abdomen.
The 45-minute shooting spree a week before Halloween is thought to be a random crime...
For much of the city's aboriginal population, North End and inner-city 'hoods are the new black ghettos.
"It's like what they said in Maclean's. They ridiculed the blacks in the States. Now it's like that for us," Jon C says.... "Winnipeg is like Detroit used to be, or New York or L.A., Jon C says."
"Winnipeg's Most has a recording company called Heat Bag Records, a double play on words with a cheeky message.
"A heat bag is street slang for someone who scores himself out and gets caught by the police. It's a logo they've outgrown, the crew says. Today's artists are tight, they share gigs, help each other out and they present a united front to the public outside their fan base.
"Hip hop is not gang culture. It's an expression of yourself... Our goal isn't money. It's relief of the stress built up in your chest. It's therapy with a mike. Sure there's gangsta rap," Jon C says.
"But we're hip hop," Brooklyn adds."
The reporter fell for it hook, line and sinker, stating: "That's a sea change. You'd almost think the rappers were social workers", and quoted a social worker cum rapper (how convenient) to back her up:
"Hip hop and rap have been blamed many times for many years for everything from suicides to murders. I'm not delusional, I do recognize that rap has its issues and problems," Winnipeg rapper Pipskid says by email while on tour in Europe. "But I believe the overall effect it has on Winnipeg's inner city and North End is incredibly positive."
For a record label from a troubled genre, what a public relations coup.
But had the reporter looked one inch deep into the legal status of Heatbag impressario Jon-C, the reporter would have found his dealings with the court were even more current than those of Fettah, and that legal trouble was not a thing of the past for the bunch.
In fact, Jon-C has had serious charges before the courts since June 23, 2008 - during the time the picture was taken, in which he is standing over Selinger's right shoulder.
Jon-C is due in court December 16th, to face charges of possess for the purpose of trafficking and possess property obtained by crime. Other charges for failing to comply with attending court have been dropped. By the time Jon-C gets in front of a judge in December, his charges will be over 3 1/2 years in process. So much for the success of the NDP hiring more prosecutors. And you can bet the plea-bargain card will be played.
The third member of Winnipeg's Most, Brooklyn, seen at the far right with that hat on, is awaiting two trials of his own.
One is for an alleged assault (and breach of probation) in June 2010. The other is from an incident on Valentine's Day 2011 that allegedly encompassed another assault, utter threats, mischief, possession of a dangerous weapon, and multiple breaches of conditions of probation regarding weapons and alcohol. Brooklyn is not going to court on those 11 charges until September -- of 2012.
Heatbag Records is more than just the rap trio of Winnipeg's Most. There are other rappers, MC's, and an entourage.
Take, for instance, the guy in the track suit in the photo, Ashley Blakk (third from the left). He was convicted of trafficking in March 2008 and was tossed back in the brink for breaching probation last December.
His court record also shows a conviction in 2002 for sexual assault, bargaining away 5 related charges; with yet other charges of assault cause bodily harm and 4 breaches of conditions being plea-bargained away by the Crown over the years. A total of 10 charges have been stayed on him alone.
Police have seen 15 charges stayed against members of the crew. Another 15 charges are pending. They range from drug trafficking to assaults to uttering threats to multiple breaches of conditions of release - which as we've seen are the first to be plea-bargained away and are treated by judges as jokes.
And the delays in getting the remaining charges to trial is the hallmark of the court system under the NDP.
In the meantime, the hip-hoppers are free to release more tracks, garner street cred, spread their don't snitch mantra, earn cash money, and get the number one crime fighter in the province to pose with them.
A police source told us: "They get the right photo op and legitimize themselves instantly. Perhaps Greg Selinger thought he was legitimizing himself with that crowd too - except of course that doesn't work too well because they can't cast ballots on Bebo.
The Heatbag Records website shows logos of guns, bullets, fingerprints, all the gang trappings. is it all in good fun, or something more sinister? By appearing at the side of an organization like this, Selinger is signaling -- to them at least - that slinging dope, beating people up and stuff is kool. And don't forget about the shooting up the neighborhood part. But, it's always nice to have a picture of you with the provincial juice to show a judge you've turned your life around. "
There's nothing like getting the Premier's seal of approval. Will hanging out with gangster rappers and holding up their colours win Selinger the public's seal of approval?