The Wire, the HBO cop drama that was so much more, aired its final episode, “30,” on March 9, 2008. Despite Christopher Wallace never seeing a single frame of the show, the two will forever be linked be for not only their final day of life, but also the manual that Biggie gave us, unfortunately posthumously, “10 Crack Commandments” from Life After Death.
The Wire (available to stream anytime on HBO Now) was ultimately the story of Baltimore in its entirety, but at its core, it was a show about cops trying to lock up drug dealers. Five years before The Wire debuted on HBO, the Notorious B.I.G laid out a manual for drug dealing, over production from fellow legend DJ Premier. Inspired by an article in the issue of The Source that his mother had in the “Juicy” video, B.I.G. set out to give aspiring dealers the rules to the game, and in true Biggie style he seamlessly weaved the rules into a three minute lesson that could have accompanied a power point presentation and performed in a classroom (or one of Stringer’s dope dealer meetings in the funeral home).
Unfortunately for many of the characters in the semi-fictional Baltimore of The Wire, not everybody listened, but because Frank knew his stuff, and because The Wire was rooted so deeply in reality, every single one of these commandments showed up throughout the series’ 60 episodes.
Here is The Wire, as told by Biggie Smalls’ “10 Crack Commandments.”
1. “Never let no one know, how much dough you hold…”
… the cheddar bring jealousy. Ziggy Sobotka did silly things, like buy a duck and give him a diamond studded collar and burn $100 bills at the bar for shits and gigs. Well, doing so did exactly what Big said it would – bred jealousy, especially with a fellow stevedore named Maui.
Eventually his nemesis at the docks would be the one who gave the information about the computer system at the docks to Beadie leading to a huge break in the smuggling case against the dock workers.
2. “Never let ’em know your next move…”
A bit of advice Stringer Bell should have taken.
In one of the greatest scenes of the entire series, Stringer and Avon met for one last time on the balcony of Avon’s penthouse apartment that Stringer set him up with when he was released from prison. As the old friends shot the shit one last time, both knowing that they had already set the other up, Avon slyly asked Stringer where he would be the following day.
String hesitantly offered the intel, unbeknownst to the fact that he had just signed his own death certificate. When String showed up where he said he would be, Omar and Brother Mouzone paid him back for betraying them both.
3. “Never trust nobody…”
This could apply to the Stringer and Avon situation from the second commandment, and so many others. But this edict belongs to one person and one person only – Prop Joe (R.I.P). After taking all sorts of flack for his sister’s son, Cheese (famously portrayed by none other than Method Man), he was eventually set up by Randy’s dad (yup, both share the Wagstaff surname for a reason) and handed over to Marlo just as he was looking to get out of the game. Marlo handled things like Marlo does, all because Prop Joe didn’t heed the words of the Notorious one.
4. “Never get high on your own supply…”
This one is a little tough because as Omar told McNulty and Kima, Avon has rules and this was one of them (he literally sung the tune). That didn’t stop two of Avon’s employees from getting high anyway in Season One, and for both of them it led to their demise.
Bird, a Barksdale shooter, was eventually tracked down because of his tendency to smoke a little dope in his free time. More tragically, Wallace turned to smack when times got too hard for him in the West Side of Baltimore. It was this and his discussion with the police (more on this later) that eventually led to his death, by the hands of his two best friends.
5. “Never sell no crack where you rest at…”
Again, the Barksdale crew and later the Stanfield organization had rules. And with how hard nosed those in charge could be it would take a Grade A screw up to break those rules. Well, Namond was just that, and had to learn from none other than his mother.
De’Londa caught Nae bagging up the dope that she made him sell at home (“I’m stretching bottles ma”), and went ballistic. Thus began the string of events that led to Kenard robbing Namond and eventually Grammy-nominated R&B singer Mack Wilds beating the dog piss out of a third grader.
6. “That go*damn credit? Dead it/ You think a crackhead paying you back, sh*t forget it…”
Number six in Biggie’s manual is a rule the characters in The Wire followed religiously. Sure, there were some money games played by Bubbles and Johnny, which they payed for, and yeah, a couple of aggressive dope fiends tried to pull a fast one on Michael when he dealt a bit for school clothes money. There were even a few vials given away for free to Michael’s mom.
But even then, not in one single scene in all five seasons, did anybody give out a fix on credit. The drug dealers of Baltimore clearly listened to B.I.G.
7. “This rule is so underrated: Keep your family and business completely separated…”
Prop Joe made this mistake, as mentioned earlier, and Namond begrudgingly did the same with mother of the year De’Londa, but they weren’t alone in disregarding of the much underrated seventh commandment.
Avon employed his nephew, D’Angelo, which ultimately led to D’s death, a shattered relationship with his mother (Avon’s sister Brianna). Ziggy and Nick Sobotka, cousins, also tried to sell dope together, which only led to jealousy and Ziggy going off the rails and Nick disappearing into witness protection (or not, in one of the very few plot holes of the show Nick showed up again for one small scene in Season Five).
8. “Never keep no weight on you…”
Because if you do, Omar will take the entire shipment and go on vacation. But besides that, this was the mistake D’Angelo Barksdale, “nephew to the king,” made that was the first domino to fall in the chain of events that ultimately led to D’s murder in prison. D’Angelo made a quick trip to New York, at the behest of Uncle Avon, to pick up a shipment because he knows he can trust family. Blah blah dead or in jail, D’Angelo ended up being both, all because he didn’t listen to Biggie Smalls.
9. “If you ain’t gettin’ bags, stay the f*ck from police…”
Even B.I.G. admitted this should have been number one.
This was another rule The Wire followed vehemently, and the consequences were always harsh. The first domino of the show actually stems from someone speaking to police. The murder of the state’s witness William Gant, who testified against D’Angelo was murdered for doing so, led to a lengthy investigation by Baltimore’s finest.
Orlando, Wallace and D’Angelo all lost their lives due to communication with police. Randy received several beatings and had his house burnt down when Marlo made sure the word got out Randy had spoke to police. And finally, and most famously, it was through pure coincidence that Marlo’s lieutenant, Monk, saw young Bodie Broadus with McNulty, leading to everybody’s favorite corner boy being killed on the corner doing all he knew.
10. “If you ain’t got the clientele say hell no…”
With all the rules and discipline in the Westside, we travel to the Eastside to find a dummy stupid enough to not follow the final commandment. Enter Ziggy Sobotka. Again.
Frank’s son was dumb enough to take dope from Cheese on consignment, only to come up short later when he couldn’t get the money back in time. Ziggy was a failure on both sides of the coin, as he later gave dope out on consignment, but his dealers didn’t respect him enough to pay up. The lack in judgement cost Zig his prized Camaro, and even though he got reimbursed thanks to a little Russian muscle, Ziggy should have listened to Voletta’s son.
This is an updated version of a post that originally ran on March 9, 2014.