James Rosemond is thinking a lot about his legacy. The music industry executive who was known as "Jimmy Henchman" for his alleged approach to handling problems, is currently incarcerated and serving six back-to-back life sentences for drug trafficking and murder charges. Now, with the possibility of being set free coming into view, Jimmy is thinking about his next move, and how he wants to be remembered by his children and his peers in the industry.
Rosemond’s reputation in the hip hop world was damaged by his alleged involvement with the 1994 shooting of Tupac Shakur when the rapper was at Quad Studios in New York City — an allegation he has vehemently denied. Rosemond resurrected his career, however, and went on to manage stars like The Game, Sean Kingston, Brandy, Gucci Mane and Akon.
But everything changed in 2012, when Rosemond was convicted on drug trafficking and murder charges, the latter stemming from an assault on his then 14-year-old son. After his conviction, despite questionable practices by the prosecutor and D.A.'s office, Jimmy was shunned by the music industry.
Last year, the tragedy got a plot twist when a judge overturned the murder-for-hire charges based on new evidence and prosecutorial errors in the trial. On November 6, Jimmy faces a re-trial for the death of G-Unit's Lowell Fletcher, who was killed after backhanding Jimmy's son James Jr. in a parking lot. If Jimmy wins the re-trial, he's hoping the rest of his convictions will also fall like a house of cards, and he'll be released from the prison where, as of now, he will take his last breath.
Earlier this week, rumors of a potential biopic on Jimmy's life surfaced when director John Singleton (who notoriously walked off the Tupac biopic All Eyez On Me) paid the incarcerated executive a visit in prison. We were able to talk to Jimmy the very next day about the possible project, as well as his feelings about the re-trial, his advice for young rappers caught up in the justice system and much more.
Read our in-depth interview with Rosemond, below:
There's really — the talks are early — but John has been a good friend of mine who has come to see me and we talked about various things. I'm not really privileged to go in detail about anything, but it's still early and sometimes people come see you for ideas and suggestions, and especially when they're going through certain things, so the conversation was about a variety of things. First and foremost, it was in regards to us being friends.
You know most the time when you're even developing something it takes some time, years. In a few years, we will know whatever my fate will be. If it's a reversal [of my conviction], that one day I am coming home, or if there's a reality that something like that is even possible. One of my main things with writing a book or even doing a film has always been that the story ain't finished yet. The ending isn't done yet. If it's a tragedy I want nothing to do with it. I guess you can learn lessons through tragedy, but that's not how I want my life story told. I hope that it’s a compelling story, a great comeback where hope seems ... where there's light somewhere in the future. That's the only way that I want my story to be told.
There's no way to escape where I'm at right now. There's no way to escape not thinking of that reality of coming to terms that, you know, that my death may be in a penitentiary. That's a stark reality that I definitely have to deal with every day. But there is some hope. But everything that I've been through in my life that prepared me for this kind of battle. So, in that sense I haven't given up hope. I haven't given up hope at all. So, when I see guys like John Singleton interested in coming to see me, still thanking me for inspiring them early on, it gives me hope to know that I've done some good. And in turn some good will come back to me.
Absolutely. I think about that all of the time and what comes to mind is something Churchill said after WWII, he said that he would not let them write his history, that he will write it himself. It push came to shove I have enough friends where I will make sure that my enemies do not write my story — my biopic, when it comes to what I've accomplished, what I've been through. Because you can't just Google me and find out everything about me. I can tell that one of things that [Singleton and I] did talk about was there there's no way that Hip Hop or the music business can be told, about the 90s or the early 2000s, and they can erase me out of it. And even though I know that there are people that would love to erase me out of what happened in Hip Hop or try to show that I was a negative part of it, they can't. I was just too involved in the culture of Hip Hop growing. And this is one of the reasons why I'm prosecuted so vehemently by the government, is because they don't understand how important, and what part I played in the music business. They think that they're getting rid of a cancer out of the music business and they don't understand how important I was to the culture.
One of them is that I'm a human being, that I am prone to mistakes, that I am vulnerable, that I'm a real person. I go through the same things that other people go through. I think sometimes people become figures that they...people think they don't have feelings anymore. Because recently the OJ Simpson situation just came up, and I'm not defending him or backing him, but just looking at him yesterday, as much as I didn't like some of the things that he was saying, but the guy is human. The guy has children, the guy has a family. Sometimes we don't look at people like humans anymore. They just become something they can troll on the internet. I have fallen victim to some of that. That people don't look at me as a human. I'm a real person, I'm a father, I'm a husband, a brother, and I was a son to my mother. I am a regular person.
Yes. With Black men, we're just more prone to the viciousness. Like, look at Bill Cosby — again, I'm not defending him in anything that he's been accused of — but you look at how people react to him. They just don't look at him as human. You take a guy like Bill Cosby and see what he's going though, understanding that he's innocent until he's proven guilty. I think, as a Black man, he's taking the weight of it.
I don't think there's a simple answer to that because all of us have our own way of life or upbringing in neighborhoods that we grow up in, and vices. What happens is, you have people who don't understand the culture of hip hop. Who don't understand the poetry of what a person is saying who don’t understand the lifestyle. Who just don't understand anything that has to do with what we do in the music business. They interpret that as criminal, and so we slip up, or it appears that we slipped up, or we get accused of something, we're prosecuted to the full extent. Take me of instance. I'm on trial for murder of a person who assaulted my son when he was 14 years old and they wanted to introduce [as evidence] an artist that I represented, which was Game, and some of the lyrics that he rapped about. I'm a manager. I don't tell a guy how to rap, what to rap, or anything. I manage this guy's business. So, you want to introduce a rap song that my artist that I represent, you want introduce his lyrics into my trial. It just shows me how much you don't understand the culture of what we're dealing with. Or the culture of the rap business. Because they don't understand it they fear it, and so the prosecute it.
They take it literally. Everything we do is literal.
I think we blur the lines between theater, entertainment, and what true life is. What I would advise to anybody who gets into the business, who is successful...there has to be a cut off at the line between the streets and entertainment, and don't cross those lines. It's one thing to rap about it, but it's another thing to want the lifestyle that you rap about. And so, this is where the line of the streets and theater comes together and then becomes blurred. When it gets blurred sometimes we can cross over that line, and then we find ourselves in these situations that are not good. And so, the advice I would give to anybody, be it an executive or a rapper whoever, a producer, is just understand where those lines interact, and try not to blur those lines, and cross the line. That way you'll totally stay out of situations that get so blurry to the point of where everything looks like it’s the same.
I don't know anything about that. I would say, after going through what I have gone through, how I have been sought after and prosecuted. I would say that I hope Suge would get out of his situation. I would pray that he gets a favorable outcome to his current situation, which is unfortunate.
I just feel betrayed by the industry in general, and this is another thing that I can share with you. That was another issue that was broached between me and John [Singleton], about the loyalty in the music business. And what happens is everybody feels that if they support people when they get in trouble, and I guess you can show that with Bobby Shmurda, they are afraid that they are going to get tied up into something that they have no involvement in. What the music business has done, they make money off of a lifestyle, but when that lifestyle comes back and bites them, or bites that person, they abandon that person and they make him fend for himself. If I had had that support [from the music industry], the government would have backed off of me because they would have known that they couldn't get away with the antics that they were trying in my trial. This is what the government is doing in my case: they're interpreting what rap music is, and what these rappers do, through rap lyrics. It's almost like Hip Hop is on trial because every violent situation that happened in New York is in my trial.
I'm just trying to get back to my kids. I am so confused with the two-headed justice system that is plaguing our community right now. For the life of me, I can't understand how I have [life sentences] for drugs that I never arrested with. They just allowed for guys to come in and say that I gave them drugs. I have more time for drugs than I have for murder. I'm just confused. So, justice for me is, I have to get rid of this murder case. The guy who actually killed the guy is on the streets right now. He's home, and I have life for murder.
Hopefully my son won't have to live with the thought that his father is in jail because him, as a little 14-year-old kid, came to me and told me that a grown man, four grown men who were in their 30s surrounded him and assaulted him. I would hope that that doesn't haunt him, that his father is in jail for life because he came and told me about that. I'm hoping that they don't have to live with the fact that their father is a convicted murderer, that's what I'm hoping that when I go back to trial I am vindicated in this case. And then I am hoping that they are able to see me as a free man one day. My youngest daughter was ten months old when I came to jail. Now she's seven years old. For the first time, it hit her that I'm in jail. When she came to see me last week, and she asked me after the visit, "Why are you where you at?" I always knew this question would come one day. That was the hardest conversation that I as a father. I had to tell her that daddy did something wrong and she asked me, "What did daddy do?" And I said, for her to understand in her seven-year-old mind, I said that, "Daddy had a fight." I couldn't say, "Daddy is convicted for drugs and for murder," so I said daddy had a fight. She asked why and I said, "You know, daddy got angry one day and started fighting so they put daddy in jail." And I knew that's all a seven-year-old mind could comprehend. That was the hardest conversation that I had. That haunts me. It was a week ago that she asked that and it haunts me to date.
A perfect day for me, as O.J. said, is to stay conflict free, you know? Being able to talk to my children, I try to do that every day.
Regardless of the circumstance now, I live through my memories of when I was free. I came to jail at 46, and I'm 52 now. I had a ball man, I can't even act like I didn't. I traveled the world, I've met a lot of interesting people coming from the neighborhood I came from. And I was able to go to the White House in '08 and meet the first Black president. I was able to go to Mecca and confirm my faith. It's those things that make me feel complete, and if was to die today or tomorrow I'd feel like I've lived my life. So, in that respect I'm grateful for it all.
If you were to ask me that when I was a kid, I would have said I wish I wasn't Black in America. But right now, I don't think I would change anything. Everything that I went through in my life prepared me for this battle that I'm going through right now.
How will this all end? I just would have to know that. I mean, you know my visions of how it ends is almost like movie-like [laughs]. It's almost like being carried out of the courtroom on all of my friend's shoulder. I would definitely want to know how this whole tragedy, how it all turns out.
(Photo: Johnny Nunez/WireImage)