In the new Showtime docuseries “Supreme Team” — which traces the rise and fall of the titular gang — Mayor Eric Adams reflects on the “street entrepreneurship” that led the notorious crew to run the streets of Queens during the crack era.
“You saw street-corner CEOs popping up all over our city,” says Adams of the ’80s crack epidemic in the three-part docuseries, which premieres on Friday.
But Adams — who, as a 15-year-old growing up in Jamaica, Queens, was arrested for trespassing in the apartment of a go-go dancer who owed money to “my small little crew” — believes that those same street skills can take you from drug dealing to corporate deal-making.
“You can go in the system and use those same abilities that you made to be a street-corner CEO to be a CEO at anywhere you are,” he says.
It might seem surprising to see Adams appear alongside Queens rap legend LL Cool J, Murder Inc. Records honcho Irv Gotti and “Supreme Team” co-director Nas in this docuseries (which was produced by Mass Appeal as part of the #HipHop50 initiative). But in telling the story of the gang that was highly influential on hip-hop style and culture, even loosely inspiring the 1991 hit film “New Jack City,” co-director Peter J. Scalettar says that Adams brought “so many angles” to the project.
“He was really kind of a wealth of information and insight, and could speak to the law enforcement side, to the Queens community side, to the New York black community side, to so many parts of it,” Scalettar told The Post. “As a kid growing up in that era, he touches the story in so many ways.”
The docuseries traces how Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff and his nephew Gerald “Prince” Miller grew up in Jamaica, Queens in the ’70s — where it was once “like ‘The Jeffersons’ for black folks,” as Adams describes — and went on to rule the Supreme Team in the ’80s.
“They were like neighborhood superheroes,” says LL, who is seen in a clip at Miller’s birthday party in 1985. “They’re like the Godfathers of Queens.”
“If I was their age, I coulda been … on their level,” says Queensbridge native Nas, who rapped about the Supreme Team on his 1994 debut album “Illmatic.” “These people were at the right place at the right time for the perfect storm.”
The name of the gang gained notoriety with the World’s Famous Supreme Team’s 1984 rap single “Hey DJ.” “Back then, the drug dealers was making, in some cases, more money than a lot of rappers,” says Nas. “The Supreme Team probably had more money than [Def Jam Records co-founder] Russell Simmons back then.”
Indeed, at the height of their crack rule, the Supreme Team was making $20,000-$30,000 a day on a good corner or block. But after McGriff was busted in a raid and sent to prison in 1987, things turned even more dangerous in the drug game.
Officer Edward Byrne was executed in his police car in 1988 — by a member of a different drug crew — and the cops turned up the heat on the crack trade. “It was something that changed policing,” says Adams.
Even the Supreme Team — who had been tied to at least nine murders themselves in the ’80s — considered it to be a “detrimental act” to target the police. “That was a big disaster right there , because it f–ked up everybody’s money,” says McGriff.
After Miller’s Queens Village house was raided, he was sentenced to six concurrent life sentences plus 20 years in 1990 for drug trafficking. And though McGriff was released in 1994, he wound up back in jail on murder-for-hire charges — this time for life — in 2007.
And while both McGriff and Miller — who are interviewed over the phone from federal prison in the docuseries — are still serving their life sentences, Adams believes that his own journey should inspire others doing time.
“It says to a person that’s sitting in Rikers right now that believes this is the end of the road, ‘Now wait a minute—Eric was arrested.’ Now every street hustler knows that you don’t have to stay where you are,” he says. “Every street hustler alive should see the possibilities right now.”