Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Notorious B.I.G.’S “Ten Crack Commandments” and Donald Trump

Frank Rudy Cooper, Gregory S. Parks

In his 1997 song, “Ten Crack Commandments,” The Notorious BIG offered some rules to the drug game:

I’ve been in this game for years; it made me an animal.
There’s rules to this shit; I wrote me a manual.
A step-by-step booklet for you to get,
Your game on track, not your wig pushed back.

These rules have been interpreted to apply more broadly to leadership within institutions and organizations. Commentators like MSNBC journalist, Ari Melber, have further interpreted the “Commandments” in the context of Donald Trump’s presidency and his violation of them. We offer a slightly more fulsome analysis here.

“Never let no one know how much dough you hold.”
[Don’t make yourself a target.]

Trump has a long history, dating back to at least the 1980s of bragging, and lying, about his wealth. He has historically reported his wealth to be between $4 billion to $10 billion. Because of his dishonesty about his wealth and resistance to scrutiny of his tax filings, Trump’s finances have received significant legal scrutiny. In 2019, the House Committee on Ways & Means sued the Department of the Treasury and Trump to subpoena Trump’s taxes. In 2019, the New York District Attorney’s Office subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for Trump’s individual tax returns from January 2011 to August 2019. In 2021, considering the New York Attorney General’s investigations into Trump, Mazars cut ties with the Trump Organization and retracted information contained in financial statements from 2011 to 2020.

“Never let ‘em know your next move.”
[Be unpredictable yet maintain control.]

Trump has a history of boasting about what he will do and failing to deliver. For example, during his candidacy, he talked about his plans for a replacement of Obamacare, claiming it was “weeks away.” However, these plans were never delivered. He also talked about his huge plans to ban TikTok, due to ties to China. However, he never followed through with this plan either. In both cases, talking about his plans made them harder to execute.

“Never trust nobody.”
[Don’t trust anyone.]

Trump has had people who were close to him, turn on him—including individuals from military leadership, White House staffers, diplomats, agency leadership, as well as anonymous sources. Michael Cohen, who served as Trump’s lawyer and fixer, is one of the most notable turnings. In 2018, after Cohen was convicted on campaign finance, tax evasion, perjury, and other charges, he flipped on Trump. In 2020, Cohen published his tell-all book, Disloyal, in which he described Trump as racist, believing evangelicals were politically gullible, and indebted to Vladimir Putin.

“Never get high on your own supply.”
[Don’t succumb to your own hype.]

Trump’s high is himself; he is a narcissist. In Greek mythology, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection, staring at it for the remainder of his days. Narcissists have a grandiose sense of self-importance, believe that they are special, require excessive admiration, and are preoccupied with fantasies of greatness. According to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, in their book Peril, former House Speaker Paul Ryan started researching how to interact with people with narcissistic personality disorder after Trump’s 2016 win. Trump’s niece, Mary, underscored these points in her book, Too Much and Never Enough.

“Never sell no crack where you rest at.”
[Separate nefarious activity from where you reside.]

During his presidency, Trump obstructed justice from the White House on multiple occasions. The most notable instances were throughout the Mueller Investigation. At the beginning of the investigation into Trump’s connections with Russia, he asked FBI Director Comey for loyalty. Later, after Comey refused, he was fired by Trump only four years into his 10-year term. In the weeks following Comey’s testimonies in March of 2017, Trump repeatedly asked the directors of National Intelligence, the CIA, and the NSA to publicly state that there was no connection between him and the Russians regarding the 2016 election. In June of 2017, Trump deliberately interfered with the Department of Justice yet again by asking his former campaign manager to request that the Attorney General announce the investigation was unfair. He then tried to fire Attorney General Sessions. His Chief of Staff later said that he believed this was because Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation. When his attempt to fire Mueller as Special Counsel was futile, Trump’s final obstruction of justice during the Mueller investigation came when he directly threatened Michael Cohen’s family before he was set to testify in Congress.

“That God damn credit, dead it.”
[Don’t get in debt (inverse of B.I.G.’s point).]

In a 2016 interview, Trump proclaimed that “I’m the king of debt. I’m great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me”. Unsurprisingly, his over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and Manhattan have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection six times between 1991 and 2009.

“Keep your family and business completely separated.”
[Nepotism is a no no.]

Nowhere has this lesson been more prominently ignored than in the business dealings of Trump. Even before his presidency, Trump’s business and familial spheres were inextricably connected. According to a 2017 Forbes profile of the Trump family, Donald Trump Jr. served as a trustee and executive vice president of The Trump Organization. He ran the company with his younger brother, Eric, who also served as a trustee and Executive Vice President. The company has been in family hands since Trump’s father, Fred, incorporated it in 1927 with his mother. After being elected President, Trump’s nepotism led to his administration being staffed with numerous direct and extended family members, unprecedented in modern American political history. His daughter, Ivanka, who was also an Executive Vice President of the Trump Organization (although less active in managerial affairs), served as an Advisor to the President and the Director of the Office of Economic Initiatives and Entrepreneurship for the entirety of his tenure. Her husband, Jared Kushner, was a Senior Adviser to the President and Director of the Office of American Innovation. Additionally, Kushner served a prominent role in shaping the administration’s criminal justice and foreign policy, authoring the peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Eric Trump’s brother-in-law was named to be Chief of Staff at an office in the Department of Energy. As a result of these highly unusual personnel choices, charges of nepotism and cronyism were widespread during the Trump administration, as well as allegations that government policy was being unduly influenced by considerations favorable to the Trump Organization’s business interests.

“Never keep no weight on you.”
[Remove yourself from positions of liability.]

The idea that individuals should protect themselves and their assets by avoiding risky behaviors, actions, and people has been lost on Trump. Throughout the course of his presidency, Trump openly admitted to committing crimes without an ounce of shame. For example, during the 2020 election, he personally called the Georgia Secretary of State asking him to swing the election in Georgia to Trump’s advantage. In the phone call, Trump reportedly asked Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” to help him win the state. After being refused, Trump publicly called Raffensperger disloyal. Although the entirety of the phone call was recorded, Trump and his team continue to deny any legal and moral wrongdoing, stating that they were trying to help remove corrupt ballots from the Georgia election pool that were placed there by the Democratic Party.

“If you ain’t getting bagged, stay the fuck from police.”
[Be cautious about your relationship with law enforcement.]

The idea that individual should not be seen with the enemy—e.g., law enforcement—Trump has publicly denounced members of law enforcement that investigate him and his associates as dirty cops. However, he has praised those who support him and his endeavors. For example, after police in Buffalo killed a 75-year-old peaceful protestor, Trump publicly blamed the man, claiming him to be antifa. Overall, Trump has a history of advocating and supporting individuals in law enforcement who prove useful to him and his cause.

“Consignment strictly for live men, not for freshmen.”
[Don’t get in too deep in relation to some business ventures.]

While one should not find themself in too deep in relation to some business ventures—e.g., taking out a loan—this became the crux of the issues regarding Trump. During his time in office, his relationship with Vladimir Putin was a source of major controversy. After allegedly placing himself in debt to Russia and Putin, Trump had to repay them in the only way that he could, political power and favors. His continuous support and comments regarding Russia and Putin made during his time in office hinted towards a deeper relationship, based on things unknown. This rhetoric began even before his election. For example, before the 2016 Republican National Convention, Trump blocked language from the platform that would have encouraged the United States government to send weapons to Ukraine. This provided Russia with an advantage against Ukraine. Additionally, throughout his time as President, Trump defended Putin’s decisions and attacked other political leaders, sanctions, and countries that worked against Putin’s interests.

Parks and Cooper are to co-editors of Fight the Power: Law and Policy through Hip Hop Songs (Cambridge University Press, 2022),

Fight the Power by Gregory S. Parks and Frank Rudy Cooper

About The Authors

Frank Rudy Cooper

Frank Rudy Cooper is William S. Boyd Professor and Director, Program on Race, Gender & Policing, UNLV Boyd School of Law. He is an expert in the intersectionality of identities and...

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Gregory S. Parks

Gregory Parks, a trained psychologist and lawyer, is Associate Dean and Professor of Law at Wake Forest University School of Law. He has authored or edited eleven books including A...

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