If you’ll remember back to the early 2000’s, Irv Gotti and Ja Rule were ruling the hip-hop charts through their record label, Murder Inc. Records. Before their storied beef with 50 Cent and G-Unit, Murder Inc. artists Ja Rule, Ashanti and Lloyd were among (if not, the) top acts in hip-hop and R&B. One could say their peak was the release of the compilation album Irv Gotti Presents: The Inc., which featured the Ja, Ashanti and the rest of the crew: Vita, Charli Baltimore, Black Child, Cadillac Tah and others. The music surely has its place in history, but the name, “Murder Inc.,” is even more legendary. It is borrowed by the almost mythical outfit that acted as muscle for the American Mafia in the 1920’s to the 1940’s. The national organization of hitmen didn’t go by any particular name, but the press dubbed them “Murder, Incorporated.”
For a little history, Murder, Inc. was formed shortly after La Cosa Nostra (the formal name given to the Italian organized crime syndicates meaning “this thing of ours”) came to be. Italian mobster Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Meyer Lansky–the Jewish gangster that would be the brains behind the Mob–made their way through the Castellammarese War. It was unheard of at the time for Italians and Jews to do business together in the underworld. This was the power struggle between Joe “The Boss” Masseria and Salvatore Marranzano for control of the the Mob. Marranzano won and named himself “capo di tutti capi” or “boss of all bosses.” Luciano and Lansky then arranged his murder and seized control. Instead of one boss overseeing everything, they rationed control to the Five Families of New York (Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese) and Al Capone’s successor as boss of Chicago. Lansky and iconic Jewish gangster and organized crime pioneer Benjamin “Bugsy” Sigel (had to factor into Beanie Sigel’s name) converted their enforcemet racket, the Bugs and Meyer Mob, into Murder, Inc..
The day-to-day operations of Murder, Inc. were overseen by notorious Jewish gangster Louis “Lepke” Buchalter and Gambino family boss Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia (inspiration for Rick Ross’ The Albert Anastasia EP). Anastasia, “The High Executioner,” would receive murder contracts from around the country and send them to Buchalter–through associate of both, Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro–who would dole out work to killers-in-wait. It was reported that in 1935, Murder, Inc. had 250 killers on the payroll nationwide and made an estimated $1 million per year ($17 million in today’s dollars). Most of the hitmen came were Jewish and Italian goons out of Brownsville, East New York and Ocean Hill in Brooklyn. Buchalter knew many of them from his days running a union busting gang with Tommy “Three-Fingered Brown” Lucchese. Murder, Inc. killers made an average of $1,000 to $5,000 per murder on top of a regular salary. Their families also received money and, if they were pinched, the Mob would provide the best legal representation money could buy. None of the killers were tied to La Cosa Nostra directly, however, and could not implicate the Mafia in their work.
The most famous Murder, Inc. killing was their assassination of revered crime boss Dutch Schultz. Schultz argued with other bosses–including Buchalter–over whether or not to kill New York district attorney Thomas Dewey. The other bosses agreed to have Schultz–who was for the murder of Dewey–killed. When Dewey went after Buchalter, “Lepke” had witnesses and suspected informants killed.
Murder, Inc. came to an end when Buchalter and other leaders were taken down by the law. Buchalter was charged, with others, for the murder of candy store owner Joe Rosen in 1936. He was convicted in 1941 and sentenced to death. Buchalter is the only big time Mafia boss to receive the death penalty.
As you can see, Irv Gotti’s name and company were heavily influenced by La Cosa Nostra. With a name like Murder Inc., the true gangsters will have to respect it, but you will also draw attention from the cops. That name rings bells.