Straight From the Cellblock

by Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti
Urban Book Source
May 2006

Don’t get it twisted. The hip-hop fiction genre is a lot like the rap game. There’s a lot of studio gangsta’s writing about a life they never led. They’re writing about their homie or that dude on the corner or that cat they read about in the papers. Yeah sure they might be good writers with a vivid imagination but that’s all it is an imagination. They’re not legit. But you know Urban Book Source go hard. We got your bonifide thoroughbred authors right here. We’re talking straight from the cellblock. Meet Joe Black, author of Street Team.

“Anything that has to do with the game is always gonna be fast-paced,” Joe Black says and his first novel, Street Team will leave you speed reading. “It’s the closest you gonna come to being in the game without being indicted.” The author who has been profiled in KING and Don Diva magazines is the real thing. He is currently serving a 19 year sentence for a crack conspiracy in the feds and dude ain’t no joke. He’s been living in the netherworld of corruption and violence since 1994. Ain’t no faking it.

Joe Black is a hustler from the Boogie Down. Born in 1968, this cat learned the game on the rough and tumble streets of the BX, ducking and juking since he was a shorty. Now out of the game and locked down in the feds, Joe Black has started writing about drama and dangers of the thug life he left behind.

Street Team is a gritty novel about four childhood friends who at a young age take the crack game by storm. Their criminal activities draw the fed’s ire and their friendship and loyalties to one another are put to the ultimate test when they are thrust into the no mercy federal court system. The scenes from this book are played out in inner cities from coast to coast everyday. “I don’t care how careful you think you are,” Joe Black says. “One minute you’re on top and the next what took you months and years to build is taken away not gradually but rapidly all at once. Then you find yourself in a worse position than you were before you ever entered the game. Always remember while you’re out there making plans with your work and your money someone else is also making plans with your work and your money and you can bet you’re not included.”

Joe Black’s writing style is “da streets in ink on paper,” he says. And the dialogue is off the chain. “That’s just how we kick it.” But Joe Black wasn’t always a writer. He was a hustler in the streets first and a legendary prison baller second, as in basketballer. In the 90’s at spots like USP Atlanta, USP Allenwood, FCI Otisville and FCI Fort Dix he was known as Air Black, the kid from the Boogie Down who could score at will. He competed with prison legends like Ron Jordan, Silk, Joe Jesus, and The Machine. But Joe took up writing for “some recognition,” he says. “For my name to be tied to doing something good instead of bad all the time. I want to be known as a person that knows more than about selling drugs and playing ball.” And he has succeeded as his book has generated a lot of press and sent tremors through the hip-hop fiction community.

His inspiration to become an author Joe says, “Actually it was another convict. He was my cellie. Always into the magazine. The Sources. The Vibes. This cat never read any books. When we got locked down I was telling him stories. He liked them, so I started writing them down and he read them.” And with his lengthy sentence Joe Black developed his talent and took the time to write as his basketball career wound down. He says he modeled himself after “Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim because they didn’t have to interview gangsters to bring me their stories. They were gangsters and when I read their stories it was like as if they were in the cell kickin’ it with me.” And the streets and prisons are feeling Street Team too. The book was recently ranked #5 on Don Diva’s Urban Books hood board. Up there with Teri Woods, Nikki Turner and Triple Crown.

Joe says his book is “99.9 % based on real life but don’t get hemmed up here. You know its like Stephen King says, ‘Fiction is a lie that tells the truth.’ Street Team is an autobiography of everyone who ever played the game. I mean it’s gonna be some incidents in there where you gonna say oh shit this is me. For instance one cat came running to my room like yo I was just on the phone asking my girl did she remember when we used to do this and he pointed to a paragraph and it was funny because he was from a state other than NY. And I was thinking beat it son, only NY cats get down like that but it showed me that the game is the same all over the world.”

When I asked Joe what someone can get from reading his book he tells me, “Something that I wish I was afforded the chance to learn. There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There’s only one pot of cream of wheat in the morning at the mess hall and your casket in the plot with your name over it carved on a stone wall.” That’s real and Joe Black’s book is real. The sentence he is serving is definitely real to the tune of a decade and a half of his life but he’s took the time to learn and come away with something from it all.

“I’ve learned so much its scary,” he says. “I learned that before you make a choice be sure to take into consideration how it’s gonna affect the people around you like your family, your kids, your close friends. A bad choice won’t just affect you it will affect them as well.” And Joe’s time in the feds is almost up. With a release date of 2008 and more books coming out of Hampstead Publishing and Gorilla Convict Publishing it’s all working out for the best.

Joe Black is a real convict. A real hustler who played the game and lost. He’s not one of these fake ass gangstas that front in videos or in magazines and then check into PC when they have to do some time. His words come from real experiences as do his books. He writes the real and sticks to the story. Street Team is a banging, violent, and true account of the game. Like Joe Black says, “the story will tell itself.”

Seth Ferranti is a contributing writer for The Urban Book Source and accomplished journalist having written articles for Don Diva, Slam, King, Feds and many more. View more of his articles at:

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Posted 2542 days ago
my son is has just been sentenced and is serving time in huntingdon co prison he also has rep on the streets from Philly and has written a few books and is looking for help in getting them published any feedback will be helpful



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