Hip Hop genre Gangster Rap glorifies the darker side of street life, from drug dealing to murder. Yet its aficionados claim it’s mostly an act to generate attention and drive sales.
Not everyone thinks it’s an act.
Ronald “Ra Diggs” Herron was a ruthless criminal affiliated with the New York Bloods loose-knit confederacy of gangs that rose to power starting in the 1990s, holding sway for years over the drug-ridden Gowanus and Wyckoff Houses in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn.
When not running drugs into Brooklyn housing projects, Ra Diggs ran his mouth as a rising rap star boasting of murder and mayhem. Yet Herron hid himself behind a cloak of creativity, claiming it was all an act.
Federal prosecutors disagreed.
Streaming his braggadocio in bold online videos posted on social media didn’t help Herron’s cause when he was indicted on numerous counts, including robbery, assault, racketeering, drug trafficking, and murder.
In those online clips, Herron heralded himself as top dog in the Murderous Mad Dogs, a Bloods set in Brooklyn, waving his guns in the air like he just didn’t care.
But you know who did care?
NYPD and federal investigator who were watching intently, especially when he boasted that he “beat a body.”
Artistic expression? Or did Ra Diggs get away with murder, as he claimed in verse.
Herron’s tirade continued on Twitter, where he bragged he “beat a stabbing,” while repeating his “beat a body” claim.
Prosecutors alleged that Herron was referencing the murder of Frederick Brooks, an indictment he escaped in a 2002 trial, when he was acquitted when witnesses refused to testify out of fear of retribution from the Bloods’ drug-gang leader and his murderous minions.
It would be many bloody years in those Brooklyn housing projects before Herron was brought to justice.
In 2015, Herron was handed 12 life sentences in court, plus an additional 105 years, as he was scolded by federal judge Nicholas G. Garafis for his courtroom outbursts and lack of empathy for the victims’ families.
In addition to the Brooks’ murder, Herron was convicted for the killings of Richard Russo in 2008 and Victor Zapata the following year.
Throughout the high-profile trial, Herron drew a large, animated following of fans holding him up as a hero of the projects. They attended court daily, staring down the witnesses from the visitors’ gallery with vicious glares.
The intimidation didn’t work. Herron went down hard, convicted of 23 counts, including everything from robbery and drug trafficking to three murders.
Unlike in previous failed trials where Herron frightened witnesses from coming forward, dozens of brave Brooklynites refused to be terrorized, testifying at the 2014 trial that sent him away for the rest of his days.