Some of the biggest and most influential members of gangs, mafias, cartels, yakuzas and triads occasionally become celebrities when their wealth, violence and crazy antics are exposed to the media. Others become celebrities by transcending the gangster lifestyle and focusing on music, acting, sports and other legitimate forms of art and business.
Other than cash money, one of the most important currencies of the gang world is respect. Gangs who manage to recruit or have links to famous superstars love it when these celebrities stay loyal in one way or another to the gang, boosting the squad’s profile while making it a bit easier to recruit new members.
For the most part, when gang members or affiliates strike it rich and become successful celebrities, they tend to stop doing the same things that got them into trouble while in gangs. However, some celebrities affiliated with gangs continue to proudly, and publicly, declare their allegiance to their original crew. Occasionally, celebrities even put themselves at legal risk when associating with organized crime.
While its doubtful that any of these celebrities with gang ties and affiliations have benefitted from the mafia placing a freshly decapitated horse head on a Hollywood producer’s bed, having connections to the criminal underworld lends an air of mystique to the aura of fame and fortune that famous people project.
15. Chris Brown
The embattled singer and performer has been the subject of a series of violent incidents over the years, including his assault on Rihanna, a fight with Drake that almost blinded San Antonio Spur star Tony Parker and a recent shooting during a live show in San Jose that injured five people.
At an afterparty trailing the BET Awards, Chris Brown was spied forming various gang signals with his hands during the evening, which fuelled speculation that Chris Brown is indeed a long standing member or an affiliate of the Bloods gang.
Also, his entourage includes potential gang members and Brown has tweeted Bloods messages several times on the social media network.
14. Lil Wayne
New Orleans hip-hop star and noted purple drank enthusiast Lil Wayne does not hide where his loyalties lie within the gang world. Plenty of his tracks enthusiastically express his affiliation with the Bloods gang, including lyrics with Bloods slang and imagery typically associated with the gang.
Lil Wayne even goes as far as spinning rhymes about gang-related violence, admitting that he’s “blooded” in the track “I’m Bloodied”. After this admission he used the Blood term “soo-woo”, popular among members of the crew.
The hard living lifestyle affiliated with gang life caught up to Lil Wayne when his abuse of ‘sizzurp’ caused a variety of health problems including near-fatal seizures and other health conditions.
13. James Harden
One of the most famous targets of the Lil B curse is James Harden, who just suffered through an inexplicable up-and-down series against the Golden State Warriors. One of Harden’s signature taunts, stirring the pot after making a clutch three-pointer, looks suspiciously like Lil B’s cooking dance.
This earned the Houston Rockets superstar the dreaded BasedGod curse, after which Harden set a playoff record for the most turnovers in a game – 13 – matching the number on his jersey.
During his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder, James Harden was spotted tossing up hand signs on the court and even sent a message to Lil Wayne that included the use of Bloods terminology.
12. Elizabeth Hurley
Elizabeth Hurley has appeared in movies like Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and has created a terrific career for herself as a beautiful British model, actress and producer of films.
Rumors have swirled that Elizabeth, at one time of another, was associating with Donnie “Shacks” Montemarano, who has been a capo for the Colombo crime family for quite a while, with his main region in the city of Los Angeles, including influences that extend to Las Vegas and Arizona.
Donnie was under scrutiny by the FBI for allegedly tampering with college football games in an attempt to fix matches at UCLA. The charges were stayed, but the FBI supposedly still keeps tabs on his activities.
11. Carmelo Anthony
One of the most prolific current scorers in the NBA is Carmelo Anthony, who was involved in one of worst seasons in New York Knicks history last year shortly after the team won over 50 games during a successful campaign a couple of years ago.
Similar to J.R. Smith, questions about gang involvement took place while Carmelo Anthony played with the Denver Nuggets. He was seen alongside drug dealers and gang members in a video that encourages people to stop snitching, a common saying in the gang underworld.
In the video, he also talked about throwing his bronze medal from the Olympics into a lake. According to Anthony’s agent, if he knew he was going to be in the DVD he wouldn’t have appeared on the video.
10. James Caan
Hollywood legend and silver screen tough guy James Caan has made appearances in a bunch of legendary films, including The Godfather, Honeymoon in Vegas, Mickey Blue Eyes and The Way of the Gun. He’s also worked with his son Scott Caan on the television show Hawaii Five-O and made hilarious appearances on Family Guy.
James offered to pay bail for one of the members of the Colombo crime family, Andrew Russo, after a sweep conducted by the FBI in New York picked up Russo as part of the operation. After Caan appeared in court to personally vouch for Russo, who is Scott Caan’s godfather, the judge denied bail, deeming Andrew Russo a threat.
9. J.R. Smith
Now balling with LeBron on the Cleveland Cavaliers, J.R. Smith is one of the most recognizable figures in the NBA due to his crazy on-court antics, like untying the shoelaces of players on the other team and shooting ridiculous amounts of three-pointers, occasionally catching fire.
His hedonistic lifestyle peaked when he moved from the Denver Nuggets to play with the New York Knicks, enjoying the unlimited nightlife opportunities of the Big Apple. But questions about his gang affiliations started with his behavior on Twitter while with the Nuggets.
The media noticed a variety of Bloods-related tweets, including the traditional swapping of the latter ‘c’ for the letter ‘k’ that marks the Bloods’ disdain for the crips.
8. Al Pacino
One of the most successful and famous actors of the past half-century is Al Pacino, who is synonymous with passionate performances that create fire on the silver screen. The list of his legendary roles includes films like The Godfather, Scarface, Scent of a Woman, Heat and Dog Day Afternoon.
Pacino has been casually linked with the Genovese crime family, although more detailed information on their relations are not available to the general public. There’s a chance that actors like Al Pacino and James Caan have nailed their portrayals of mafia and gang members by hanging out with actual mafia and gang members and absorbing the way they talk and communicate with one another.
7. Robert DeNiro
Another one of the greatest actors in cinema history who may have crafted his performances from real-life interactions with gang members is Robert DeNiro, who, like Pacino and Caan, have starred in gang epics such as The Godfather series. Of course, De Niro may be considered one of the more versatile performers of the three, having appeared in The Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver and offbeat comedies such as Meet the Fockers.
While growing up Robert was part of a gang as a teenager and has been connected to the Gambino crime family. He also hung out with Anthony “Fat Andy” Ruggiano to portray the gangster in Analyze This.
6. Joe Pesci
Star of Goodfellas, Casino and the Academy-award winning My Cousin Vinny, Joe Pesci is called upon by directors who need a pint-sized explosion of violent, psychopathic fury in a movie production. Pesci himself has been linked with the Genovese family along with Al Pacino – another explosive screen presence.
James Caan apparently became incensed when Joe Pesci walked out on a huge, $8,000 hotel bill during 1982. This resulted in a beef between the two actors that became so heated that Caan allegedly contacted a gangster to “investigate” the problem with Pesci in a more detailed manner. Caan and Pesci ended up burying the hatchet before things got out of control.
5. Wiz Khalifa
One of the largest and most influential set of Crips on the west coast are the East Side Long Beach Rollin 20s, who feature nearly a dozen different hip-hop, R’n’B and music stars as part of their group. One of the most famous members may be Wiz Khalifa, noted consumer of cannabis and creator of slick hits like See You Again, one of the main tracks of the box-office smash Furious 7.
Wiz Khalifa grew up in various regions of the United States before settling down in Pittsburg, where he recorded his breakthrough hits like Black and Yellow, putting Steeltown on the map for hip-hop.
4. Danny Trejo
One of the toughest celebrities who have been affiliated with gangs is Danny Trejo, who started out as a bit player before eventually earning his own starring role in the film Machete, an over-the-top cult classic that drew cameos from Hollywood celebrities. His first role was out of prison was in the movie Runaway Train, also starring Jon Voight and Eric Roberts.
Trejo referred to himself as more of a vato-loco gangster rather than a tough gang guy, recalling his gangbanging days as a youngster robbing liquor stores with grenades and getting into shootouts with rivals around the San Fernando Valley. Danny turned around his life after a stint in solitary at Soledad Prison.
3. Mark Wahlberg
As a young teenager, Mark Wahlberg decided education was for suckers and joined a gang, quickly racking up dozens of charges in a relatively short period of time. He also claims he was addicted to cocaine, which likely contributed to the time he decided to attack a pair of Vietnamese men without provocation, blinding one of his victims in one eye and knocking the other out with a large branch, telling the cops, “you don’t have to let him identify me, I’ll tell you now that’s the m*********** whose head I split open.” He also made use of various racial epithets that need not be reprinted.
Mark made the most of his time in prison, turning his life around after his big brother Donnie helped hooked Marky-Mark up with a gig as a pop star, before parleying hits like Good Vibrations into a steady Hollywood gig.
2. Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard is an EPL superstar and legend, serving as captain of Liverpool for most of his career. He’s also won plenty of caps as one of the finest British midfielders to represent the country on the world stage.
Recently, Gerrard was on record as a character witness in a trial, stating that he has “the utmost respect” for John Kinsella, a gangster well-known to police and the law system. Kinsella was in the process of being convicted for robbery when he decided to flee from custody during a lunch break in the trial, contradicting Steven’s assertion of John as a good guy.
Rumor has it that Kinsella helped the Gerrards when another gangster, George Bromley Junior, attempted to intimidate and extort money from the football family. While the Gerrard family has never been convicted of anything, British tabloids are always interested in the Gerrards’ link with organized crime in Liverpool.
1. Fabrizio Miccoli
Fabrizio Miccoli is another prominent footballer who became ever more well-known because of his links to organized crime. Unlike Steven Gerrard, who has never been under scrutiny from law enforcement, Fabrizio was recently caught becoming too close with mafia figures, angering the town of Corleone by stating that a famous and fearless prosecutor, Giovanni Falcone, killed by the mafia, was “filth”.
As a result, he’s losing his honorary citizenship in Corleone but he may lose much more. His wiretapped conversations with mafia members will also cost him a huge contract as law enforcement officials investigate Fabrizio on extortion charges related to money the footballer may have asked the mafia to retrieve.
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Billboard, NPR, Today I Found Out