By Marc Morris
Ten Crack Commandments show us black markets have rules
The Notorious B.I.G. shows us even in the black market people still follow rules. It’s not a lawless society where chaos reigns. In this song, he explains how his “rules” got him mad cheddar (cash money) and if you don’t follow these rules, jail or death awaited you.
Think about it in the context of the market he is dealing in, crack. It’s illegal. By federal law, even if two consenting adults agree on a mutually beneficial price, and in return an appropriate quantity, it is still illegal. Which is why it’s so lucrative to be in the business. When you ban things, people do them anyway, the costs of doing the activity just increases due to increased risk. Which makes it more lucrative for someone who has little hope to find a “legitimate” job.
Some people are good are doing things they shouldn’t, and others aren’t. I argue it’s because of the rules or norms the individuals follow in order to succeed. In this case, Biggie’s end goal was to get money, as he says in the song:
Follow these rules you’ll have mad bread to break up
Bread means cheddar, which means dolla dolla bills y’all. So, let’s see what made him so successful in the crack game.
Rule Number Uno, never let no one know
How much dough you hold cause you know
The cheddar breed jealousy ‘specially
If that man fucked up, get yo’ ass stuck up
I think this is just a good rule in general. Don’t let every know how much money you have, particularly if your business is in the crack market. If you let people know how much money you have, it’s going to start some problems and yo’ ass might get stuck by a crack head looking to score. Really his number one rule is for his safety, not only from crackheads but also rival drug dealers and people making a fast buck (see rule 3).
Number 2, never let ’em know your next move
Don’t you know Bad Boys move in silence and violence?
Take it from your highness
I done squeezed mad clips at these cats for their bricks and chips
His second rule is also about staying alive. Don’t be predictable, sounds logical in a market where everyone is either trying to take your inventory, kill you, or put you in jail. And even Biggie admits to squeezing mad clips for bricks and chips (bricks and chips refer to weed and money).
Number 3, never trust no-bo-dy
Your moms’ll set that ass up, properly gassed up
Hoodied and masked up, shit, for that fast buck
She be laying in the bushes to light that ass up
His third rule comes back to the safety (I’m starting to see a pattern here), trust will get you killed in the crack game, I hear your mom would even set you up for a fast buck (not my mother, she’s a saint, plus she already took my lunch money).
Number 4, I know you heard this before
Never get high on your own supply
This one is all about profit and losses, you don’t use inventory for your own personal use in any business. Plus, I know you’ve heard this one before.
Number 5, never sell no crack where you rest at
I don’t care if they want a ounce, tell ’em bounce!
This one comes back to safety. Don’t let people know where you live when you are in the crack game, it’s just one more thing to be paranoid about. So in the first five rules, four are about protecting yourself and one is about not using your own product. Seems pretty legitimate rules if you were in his shoes.
What about the next five?
Number 6, that goddamn credit? Dead it
You think a crackhead paying you back, shit forget it!
When a market is pushed underground, people deal in cash — never credit. This rule is making sure you get your money in a market where you can’t go to court or send the bill to a credit agency because the market is illegal.
Plus name one trustworthy crackhead. That’s what I thought.
7, this rule is so underrated
Keep your family and business completely separated
Money and blood don’t mix like 2 dicks and no bitch
Find yourself in serious shit
See rule #3 for this explanation. No matter what South Park believes, money and blood don’t mix.
Scientists discover the cure for AIDS is $180,000. From Season 12 Episode 01, Tonsil Trouble.southpark.cc.com
Number 8, never keep no weight on you!
Them cats that squeeze your guns can hold jums too
This is another anticipatory rule for safety reasons, if you deal in a black market and you have mad cheddar, then the police are going to try to stop you from obtaining more cheddar. This means holding guns (aka weight) will get you 25 to life real quick. Name one federal prison you’d like to go to. Exactly.
Number 9 shoulda been Number 1 to me,
If you ain’t gettin’ bagged stay the fuck from police
If niggas think you snitchin’ they ain’t trying to listen
They be sittin’ in your kitchen, waiting to start hittin’
In short, snitches get stitches. In a market built on trust with the participating actors (i.e. drug dealers, suppliers and customers), talking with the police, in particular, causes a rift in that trust. It causes uncertainty for the actors in this black market. In order to correct the black market and stabilize the uncertainty, the actors must make sure to signal to future business partners this type of action will not be tolerated. As the pirates put it, a dead man tells no tales.
Number 10, a strong word called consignment
Strictly for live men, not for freshmen
If you ain’t got the clientele, say “hell no!”
’Cause they gon’ want they money rain sleet hail snow
This rule is more of a warning. If you get into the market you have to be profitable, if you don’t have the clients don’t go into this market. Cause they (i.e. larger drug dealers that they get their product from) are gonna want their money. No excuses like rain, sleet, hail, or snow.
You may think drug dealers are lawless people, but as I’ve shown, these rules are more about safety than they are about making money or dealing crack. In a black market where you’re not protected by the government or laws, it doesn’t mean there aren’t rules and norms that people follow. On the contrary, actors within a market tend to create their own set of rules.
That’s the difference between government and governance, one is the legal use of force and the other are just unspoken rules of agreement. For example, the middle seat on the airplane gets two armrests, there’s no regulation or rule. It’s just common courtesy, we’re not animals.
Just because society deems a product or service illegal, doesn’t mean everyone agrees or will comply, in fact by making something illegal the government is only inciting individuals with no other job prospects to enter into a more risky market in order to make a living. But just because someone enters into the black market doesn’t mean they don’t have morals, norms or rules that they follow, they do, but to the average citizen, they are crazy. To the average crack dealer, they are commandments.