Oh, and shout out to my girl Wendy Day. How much money did you earn during your career as a drug dealer? I don’t know. I made a lot of money. During the height of my career, for about two years, I made a million dollars every day. And out of that million, $200-300k was mine to keep for myself. Some days, I made $3 million. And the government confiscated all of that when you were arrested? Property, yes. I had bought a lot of property. But the properties that were listed in other people’s names, no. They kept it. So you’re still alright. No, I’m broke right now. (laughs) Well, I was broke [when I got out of prison]. I had to start over from scratch. When I got out of prison I had about $700 to start with. It’s not glamorous to be broke. A lot of people ask me, “Why didn’t you put some of that money up?” But what they don’t understand is that I now know the most valuable thing I have is my mind. Now I’ve learned how to use my mind to get the things I want. Why do you think you became such a successful drug dealer? I modeled myself after the movie Super Fly. I went in to get out. I didn’t want to make drug dealing my career. I wanted to get enough money to start a business and get out. That was my goal. When I first started, it was only to get my car fixed. I needed some wheels for my car and a paint job. $5,000 was my goal. But once I got in and got started, I told myself, “You could get a business out of this.” I wanted to start a body shop, because I was stealing cars at the time. It kept perpetuating as I got smarter, but when I went in, I always had the idea that I’m not gonna be in this forever. You set goals but after achieving them, you couldn’t just walk away? Money is crazy. It’s addictive. It pulls you in, but it also educates you. From the drug business, I learned how to do construction work. I built a motel from the ground up. I started building apartment buildings. I became a contractor. I started a tire and wheel shop. I started a phone store, a beauty salon, a junkyard, a shoe store. [The drug business] makes you educate yourself because it brings you in contact with a lot of people. You have money now, and people are after you because they know you’ve got money to finance projects. “Hey, I’ve got this great idea…” Just like NBA or NFL players, [being a successful drug dealer] brings you in contact with people. I financed Anita Baker’s first album, you know.
that to my advantage. Knowing what you know now, what other career options would you have considered? I probably would’ve went to work for [Wal-Mart creator] Sam Walton or [Nike co-founder] Phil Knight, because I’m just as smart as they are. When I read their autobiographies, I learned that I have the same qualities they have, and some that they don’t. The drug business is a tough business. A guy that can run a drug business can do anything. That’s why I can’t wait to get a hold of these kids on the street when I get my legal business going, because they have things in them that these other [executives] don’t have. Anytime you’re willing to die for something, you’re willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Death is the ultimate sacrifice. The next ultimate sacrifice is going to prison. When you’re taking those two chances, you have the [drive] to pass everybody up. You’re taking chances that Bill Gates would never take. If they told him right now, “If you don’t leave Microsoft, you’re gonna die,” he’s gone. If they told him, “If you don’t leave Microsoft, you’re going to jail for 20 years,” he’s gone. If they told Phil Knight or Donald Trump [the same thing], they’d quit tomorrow. But these young kids won’t quit. They’re gonna keep going no matter what anybody says. What other options do you plan to show street kids? It’s gonna take time. This drug problem didn’t develop in one or two weeks so it’s not going to be solved in one or two weeks. I was there when you had to stand on the corner for two or three days and you might not even make $50. That’s how I started in the drug business. I didn’t start when people were just coming down the street buying crack cocaine. It wasn’t like that. So I know this rebuilding process is gonna take some time. I’m gonna have to keep doing what I’m doing, going city to city, speaking to 50, 100, or 200 kids until I get ‘em to where I want ‘em. I’m gonna start doing webisodes where I’ll be teaching online, so I can start teaching more kids at a time. One of the problems I’m having is that I can’t be with the kids all the time like I need to be. Some of my people tell me that when I’m around they act one way, and then when I’m not around, they do it differently. I have to be able to be in all these different places all the time.
When you look at movies like Blow or American Gangster or even more recent stories like BMF, it seems like every drug kingpin’s story is the same, always with the same results. Do you think the lesson will ever be learned, or do you think the allure of the fame and fortune will always overpower “these [street kids] have things the possible consequences? I don’t think anybody’s really taught the in them that other [executives] don’t have. Anytime you’re willing lesson. There hasn’t been anybody to teach lesson because the guys who could to die for something, you’re will- the teach the lesson are in the penitentiary. Most ing to make the ultimate sacrifice. drug dealers don’t speak out. So I have a rare You’re taking chances that Bill opportunity right now because my life sentence was overturned. I have an opportunity Gates would never take. If they to speak out, and the kids still respect me. told him right now, ‘If you don’t
So was it worth it? Were the 20 years you spent locked up worth the experiences you had during the height of your drug dealing career? Aw, you know, they ask me that question all the time and I really can’t answer. Would I do it all over again today? Absolutely not. If I had the chance to decide, “Okay, you can sell drugs for eight years, make all this money, leave Microsoft, you’re gonna die,’ How was your life sentence overturned? and then you’ve gotta go to prison for 20 he’s gone. he’d quit tomorrow. years,” no, it wouldn’t be worth it. I wouldn’t They said I was a three-striker because I had do it at all. I wouldn’t sell drugs now because But these young kids won’t quit. sold drugs all over the country. When I pled now I know that I don’t need it. I never They’re gonna keep going no mat- guilty, I pled guilty to all these different cases needed drugs. At the time, I felt I did. But at [in different states]. When I got arrested the ter what anybody says.” the same time, I love who I am today. Right second time, they counted it as three strikes. now, I’m in love with myself, absolutely. I love What I discovered is that my first conviction being me and I know why these other guys wanna be me. I know why they was a “continuous criminal episode,” meaning, even though I sold drugs in use my name. I couldn’t be mad at them for wanting to be me. Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Los Angeles, and all these other places, I had never been brought to justice. So I argued that my case was the same as a kid The rapper Rick Ross actually said on the record in an OZONE interview standing on the street corner who sells crack to every car that drives by. that he didn’t take his name from you. You don’t believe that? Every time he sells to one of those cars, is that a separate conviction? My Well, he said [previously] that he did take it. But, I mean, it doesn’t matter. lawyer and the judge all said I was wrong. They thought that by being in He didn’t just come up with the name Rick Ross out of the sky. My name different states it qualified as separate criminal episodes. The appeals court was a household name all over the globe. In 1995 when Gary Webb broke said, “No, he’s right. It’s only one criminal episode. You have to bring him the story, I made the front cover of every major newspaper in the country, to justice, punish him, then let him out. Then he has to go commit another and everywhere else too. All the countries that don’t like America put me crime [for it to be considered a separate criminal episode]. Those are the on the front cover to blast America, and the countries that do like America grounds on which I got my [life sentenced] reversed. I served just about 20 still put me on the front cover. So, it is what it is. But I understand why he years; fourteen and a half years, then five and a half years. did it. It’s somewhat flattering. For somebody to name themselves after you is one of the greatest honors you could have. It’d be like a mother How did you maintain hope while serving a life sentence? coming up and saying, “I wanna name my son after you.” To have a grown I never thought they could keep me in prison. The fighters don’t ever give man name themselves after you is even more flattering. But at the same up. I even contemplated escaping. That was definitely an option in my time, there’s a way it should be done. There’s a respect level that should be mind. I talked to the escape artists all the time and told them, “Count me in there; maybe even some compensation for the sweat and the tears that if you come up with a plan.” You have a lot of options available. You always were put into it. I marketed my name. I worked with the newspapers and want to keep hope alive that one day you can get out. the TV stations (laughs) to get it out there. It’s no accident that my name became known. I wanted my name to be known. Once I was in prison and How can people get in touch with you? everybody felt that I was finished, I started coming up with ways I could use They can contact my assistant Tiffany at 910-978-5133 or visit my website at OZONE WEST // 23
Ozone West #85