The grandson of notorious Mafia figure John Gotti is criticizing Miami rapper Rick Ross for appropriating his grandfather’s media-given nickname.
Carmine Agnello, who uses the name Carmine Gotti as a musician, believes that Ross is being disrespectful by using the moniker for entertainment when it defined his grandfather’s life.
“My grandfather paid his dues for that nickname. That was my grandfather’s life,” he told the NY Daily News. “He should have asked permission. A standup, respectable guy would come and ask ‘If I could use the nickname.'”
Teflon Don is the title of Ross’ latest album which hit stores Tuesday (July 20). The LP is the second consecutive project to borrow heavily from Mafia influences. Several months ago, Ross released a mixtape titled The Albert Anastasia EP after the murderous leader of Murder, Inc. Known as the “Lord High Executioner,” Anastasia was the head of the Gambino crime family until his own murder in 1957.
The Teflon Don name itself derives from New York press outlets that coined the term following John Gotti’s ability to beat cases. The streak came to an end when he received a life sentence for murder and racketeering in 1992.
Carmine Agnello thinks highly of Ross as an artist, but believes the fact he has gone this far using a fictional stage persona proves the absurdity of celebrity in America.
“I think he’s a great artist, but you can’t just start calling yourself that to sell records,” he explained. “He wants to go for that whole image, but hey, be yourself. Only in America can you go from being a corrections officer to calling yourself Teflon Don.”
Earlier this month, Ross successfully won a case against former drug trafficker “Freeway” Rick Ross, who tried to block the Teflon Don album release and has accused the rapper of stealing his image for the past two years.
Society overall has a bizarre fixation with killers and criminals. It’s one thing to study those figures historically and psychologically, since many of them lead dual lives as devoted family men while destroying others. But it’s another thing to venerate and celebrate their “achievements,” especially if you are a person of color.
Many people focus on the Iran-Contra controversy and the CIA’s role in bringing drugs into black communities during the 80s. But there is considerable neglect to the previous decades of damage done by La Cosa Nostra, who pumped narcotics into the black community while keeping their own neighborhoods clean. This sentiment was captured perfectly by Francis Coppola in the original Godfather, where one of characters sums up the Mafia’s feelings on people of color.
“I also don’t believe in drugs. For years I paid my people extra so they wouldn’t do that kind of business. Somebody comes to them and says, “I have powders; if you put up three, four thousand dollar investment, we can make fifty thousand distributing.” So they can’t resist,explained character Zaluchi with clear disdain. “I want to control it as a business, to keep it respectable. [slams his hand on the table and shouts] I don’t want it near schools! I don’t want it sold to children! That’s an infamia. In my city, we would keep the traffic in the dark people, the coloreds. They’re animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.”
And in the real world Gotti himself was no better.
“Being a nigger is an embarrassment. Being John Gotti’s grandson is an honor,” he spat from prison regarding his grandson’s behavior.
It’s long overdue that rappers stop adoring people who not only despise them, but had a heavy hand in the destabilization of their communities.