Back when street hustlers and killers called him “Glaze,” the crack cocaine king of New York was among the most feared men walking the streets of New York. But in 1990 the enforcer for a drug kingpin from Queens pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges that put him in the middle of five murders and two attempted murders between 1985 and 1988. Brian Gibbs was 26 and had spent most of the 1980s fueling the city’s addictions and getting his hands dirty in Brooklyn.
Glaze terrorized both the weak and the strong as the leader of what was known as the M&M Crew — the “M” initials stood for money and murder — and part of the notorious “Round Table” headed by Lorenzo “Fat Cat” Nichols and Howard “Pappy” Mason. His reputation was well-earned, and crossing him could be a deadly mistake. Today he admits that he personally killed six people.
But the boy from the Cypress Hills housing projects found himself locked away, helpless, and unable to be with his mother when she died in 1992. His own pain opened his eyes to what he had put his victims’ families through. Gibbs parlayed his cooperation with federal prosecutors into a lenient sentence and served just eight years and eight months in prison. After 18 months in federal witness protection with a new identity, he re-emerged as himself, trying to tell loved ones of the people he killed that he’s changed.
Gibbs spends his time reliving stories from his past in YouTube, hoping to steer the new generation of would-be gangsters in a different direction. Zenger News caught up with him to talk about his past, his present and his future.
Percy Crawford interviewed Brian Gibbs for Zenger News.
Zenger News: Congratulations on the success of your YouTube page. It’s been a pleasure watching your page grow and you personally grow. How are you, brother?
Brian Gibbs: Everything’s going well, man. When you speak about the YouTube Channel, you’re right. It’s like another way to express yourself. And to me, my YouTube Channel is my ministry. I’m not your typical minister. How do I minister my life experiences to the younger generation to get them to understand, man, that is not the way — that street life is not the way?
Zenger: We’re seeing that more and more, Glaze, with these young rappers being murdered at an alarming rate trying to live that lifestyle. Everything you say is coming to fruition, and the deaths and life sentences say it all.
Gibbs: You see these kids, these rappers and the lifestyle that they want. I just did a piece in regard to Lorenzo “Fat Cat” Nichols. Christmas Day was his 62nd birthday. He did 32 consecutive birthdays, 32 consecutive Christmases behind the wall. The question I asked on the piece that I put up on my channel is, “Will Lorenzo Nichols die in jail?” Once again, you sit back and think about it: He had all the ghetto riches. He had all the money. Millions! He had cars, homes, jewelry, all the girls that he could possibly afford at that time. But was it all worth it?
Zenger: I watched that episode, and they took everyone around “Fat Cat” down, including you. Do you feel like at some point he deserves to live out his days as a free man?
Gibbs: You know what, honestly speaking, I hope he does. I think sometimes when you’re expressing yourself sometimes people take it the wrong way. I think everybody deserves a second or third chance. I can honestly say, and I believe it, he has changed. And I think right now he regrets everything he has done. If he had the opportunity to do it over again, that dude could’ve been a doctor or lawyer. He could’ve been a politician. The difference is when you’re out there you get caught up. You lose yourself to the street at a very early age.
At one point in time he wanted to stay in Alabama. He never wanted to come to New York. But the fact that his mother and her new family was up there, he had to migrate. He left his grandmother. He didn’t want to go. When he got up there, they were teasing him about being chubby and the way he spoke being a country bumpkin. Even me, I get teased for the way I pronounce certain things. I don’t add an “s,” that don’t make me no different. … You think I’m worried about what people have to say? But once again, he definitely deserves a second chance.
Zenger: When I look at cats like Pappy [Mason], Brian “Glaze” Gibbs, “Fat Cat,” it seems like it was so hard to relinquish that lifestyle. Was the hardest thing to let go the power, the respect, the fast money or a combination of it all?
Gibbs: You say was it hard to give it up? Sit back and think about it. Do you want the lesser of two evils? Because if you seek to hold on to everything, guess what, man: At the end of the day you know what you’re going to have. Even right now, I wanted something. I wanted the power structure. I remember the first time when I was like nine years old and my late mother took me to see the “Godfather” movie. I must have fell asleep during that movie three or four times. But when I went away from the age of 17 to 20 [for robbery], I read that book when I was in the hole in a box. I read the book “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo, and understanding what they wanted and what they were talking about, building a power structure so strong.
So to answer your question, is it hard to give up? You know what, between the ages 14 to 24 I became “Glaze.” And I got caught up into that wrong thing. You’re right. You got power, with power comes money, with money comes responsibility. But that responsibility is the wrong kind of responsibility because you have to constantly look over your shoulder and watch your back, and constantly worry about when your door is going to get kicked in by law enforcement. You gotta constantly be worried about the wolves and all the people that you have to attack that violated you and your organization. So the difference right now to me, all the money I had, being ghetto rich, I was never happy. So once I hit that road and my mother died, I was able to put things together and see, what’s the sense of you having it all if you really have nothing?
Because you can have all the money in the world. If you don’t have health, what the heck do you have? If you got a billion and one years, you can be a billionaire, if you got a billion and one years in jail, you’re dead anyway, so it doesn’t matter. I have been happier now in my latter years of life than I’ve ever been. When I used to make $40,000 a day, guess what? How can you be happy when you’re constantly watching your back? You don’t have a comfort zone.
Zenger: Do you remember the moment, the incident, the situation where Brian Gibbs turned to “Glaze”?
Gibbs: It’s a double-sword question and I’m going to not give you a double-sword answer. When I became “Glaze” I became “Glaze.” Because by the age of 14 I wanted to be down. I wanted to be cool. As time went on, growing up in New York City or growing up anywhere, it’s a stage. And I call it Broadway: “Lights, camera, action!” So when you’re out there and you graduate, you start off with petty crimes. And then you start elevating to other crimes. You start developing a habit and that reputation and that name starts to increase.
In the criminal world, all of us that didn’t know each other from the five boroughs — Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island — we all met in Riker’s Island or the prison system. Now everybody starts learning from one another. We used to use this word called “frontin’.” You ever heard of that terminology before?
Gibbs: We used to tell people, “Stop frontin’.” I’m not frontin’, that’s me. People don’t understand, frontin’ back then meant acting like something other than yourself. Sometimes you can front into that predicament, that situation, and [it’s] who you become because you pretend so much that it becomes you. It’s no different than Jack Nicholson playing The Joker. No different than Charlton Heston playing Moses. After awhile you played it so much, you start believing that’s who you really are, or that’s who fans see you as.
Zenger: Something used to set you off. Stress, bad temper, arrogance. I don’t know what it was, but you hurt a lot of people. Have you found a coping mechanism that calms you or are you just a completely different person now, and that side of you is long gone?
Gibbs: I’m not that person anymore. But then again, I had to sit back, think about a lot of things and analyze things, because when I first went through the judicial system, the federal, they wanted me to sit down and talk to psychiatrist. I wouldn’t do that. But sometimes we have to admit where we went wrong at. I had to admit where I was wrong. I was wrong about a lot of different things.
It took the death of my mother to help me reevaluate and do some real serious soul-searching. Because the fact that everything you went through, and having my mother die, I was in the hole under investigation. Not that I did anything, but the fact is a few guys dropped a slip on me and said what they thought I was going to do to them. In the feds they lock you down, start an investigation and move you from here to there.
Gibbs wrote a book in 2015 called “Beyond Lucky,” explaining what he learned while in prison after his life of crime fell apart and he made a deal with federal prosecutors to lessen his sentence. So I’m in the hole under investigation when my mother died. You got plenty of time to think, you got plenty of time to reflect, you got plenty of time to do some real serious soul-searching. It took the death of her, and the pain that I felt from losing her, to help me to understand the suffering and the pain that I inflicted upon my victims and the victim’s families. That type of pain you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
Sometimes in life when things happen to you, it all depends on how you look at the situation and the lesson you learned from the situation. I looked at all the shit I did before in the past, [and it] came back to haunt me and bit me on my behind. Now I gotta feel the same pain that I inflicted on many others. That was reality. That was a wakeup call. Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.
Zenger: I read your book, “The Brian ‘Glaze’ Gibbs Story: Beyond Lucky,” I watch the YouTube Channel faithfully. Let me ask you this: Whether you were trying to “behave” or not, what was it like to live a life that no matter who got hurt, murdered or anything bad that happened around that time, you were a suspect?
Gibbs: It became the norm. To me, I knew what I was responsible for and what I wasn’t responsible for, but yet you’re right. Anytime something used to happen, because of my reputation, I got blamed. I didn’t have anybody to blame but myself. Even when the rookie police [officer] Edward Byrne got murdered, the 113th Precinct in Queens, the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn, all of them based upon their information and all the data that they had, all of them betted that I was the man — I was the man that pulled the trigger on that police officer — not knowing I didn’t have anything to do with it. When you get accused of so many things, especially back then, like for example, when these folks told me that they believed that I averaged one murder a week for almost a year and a half. Guess what, that was a wake-up call, man.
How I’m looking at it, I am not the smartest person in the world and I’m not the dumbest person. Hold up, wait a minute. Y’all not gonna give me all of y’all unsolved cases just to close the cases. I know what I did and what I didn’t do. But based upon the name keep coming up and ringing out there, guess what? He did it. During that period of time, it was like, “He did that, he did this, and that, he could have done this.” They were just throwing everything at me. Even when I went to jail — I was incarcerated, caught a fed case, and there was a DEA agent, his name was Eric Hatchett. He was murdered. I was incarcerated. And I remember one of the last few conversations I had with my mom. My mother said, “You know what, I am so glad that you are in there, because there is no way in the world they can accuse you of killing this DEA agent.”
And like I told you, brother, that has happened in the past also. Where, as I told you, even though I came clean and made a deal, once they told me I had a murder a week for a year and a half, when I sat down with my lawyer and the homicide department from Brooklyn and Queens and we started going through different things, these guys tried to put a double homicide on me. Mainly, they’re telling me I killed two people in the [Community District] 14-section of Brooklyn. They gave me the date, and I believe the date was June 17, 1987. During that whole time, it’s different homicide detectives from different precincts. We’re all there. And I’m saying, “Okay cool. You’re saying I killed these two people on June 17, 1987,” I went to this other detective and said, “Let me ask you a question, Richard: When did I turn myself into you for the Sybil Mims murder?” So, he looks at his notes, “You turned yourself in to me on May 5, 1986.”
“Okay, did I have a bail?” “No, you didn’t have a bail.” “I went to trial, June of ’87?” “Yeah!” “So, when did I get acquitted?”
So they are looking on the record. “You got acquitted. June 22, 1987.” “So, sir, y’all claim that I killed two people on this date, June 17, 1987? So the warden of Riker’s Island, Brooklyn House, wherever I was at, let me out? I killed two people and they let me come back?”
Zenger: So like your mother said, that was one of the rare instances where being locked up actually helped you out and was a good thing to a degree.
Gibbs: Yes! Me and “Tut,” Walter Johnson, we got picked up. We got picked up on attempted murder charges and it never happened. This guy claimed that me and Tut chased him across this busy intersection on Atlantic Avenue and chased him into a crowded White Castle restaurant. Here is it. He said I tried to drag him out and I pulled out my gun and said, “I’m going to kill you the same way I killed your sister.” So no witnesses, nobody there. You’re telling me a crowded White Castle with armed security in there, and nobody saw nothing, nobody reported anything? But me and Tut got arrested and got charged for that. The difference is I went to trial and I was innocent on the attempted murder charge, but I was guilty of the murder charge. Tut was innocent all the way around the board, but he pled guilty to it because when he caught another case they convinced him, “We’ll run this together.” So, he pled guilty to that despite that it never even happened.
Zenger: It’s a gift and a curse. When you see prominent figures like Mike Tyson mention you in interviews and recall your reputation. Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan shout you out and recall your past. It’s cool to have those shout-outs, although it was under the premise of who you used to be and not the man you are today.
Gibbs: Don’t get me wrong, you appreciate the shout-out or whatever, but I feel like this: You can shout me out, but now let’s get together and see what we can work on to become part of the solution. Mike Tyson, Tracy Morgan, they are prominent, they are out there and got a bigger platform. I’m trying to get there. So the difference is right now, they mentioned my name or whatever and I appreciate that. But now let’s take it a step further. Let’s get together and figure out a way to get the word out to the youth. Don’t be the crab pulling me back down in the barrel, be that crab pulling me up out of the barrel.
If you can go on a national platform and mention the fact that you know me, okay. Reach out. Let’s get out in the community and get this message out there. Get these kids to stop making that multi-billion-dollar prison system their permanent address. Get them to put the guns down. Get them to understand why and how you know me, and what we need to do to make sure there are no more “Glaze.”
Zenger: Thank you for your time. It’s great to call you a brother and a friend and it’s amazing to see your transition. Continued success to you. Is there anything else you want to add?
Gibbs: I appreciate that, brother. It’s definitely about seeing the growth and not glorifying my past. Just let them know they can get a signed copy of my book by just emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel.
(Edited by David Martosko and Alex Patrick)
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