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Crime and Coverage: The Case of Kidd Creole

Crime and Coverage: The Case of Kidd Creole

Nathaniel Glover is currently on trial for second-degree murder in New York City. This piece is comprised of interviews conducted between December 2021 and March 2022 regarding Mr. Glover's arrest and incarceration as he awaited trial.

Guy Todd Williams, better known as Rahiem of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, had reason to feel good. It was 2017, and Rahiem was focused and he was excited. The Hip-Hop legend had big news for his iconic former group: he was putting together some shows to reunite the pioneering crew for some dates in Philadelphia and New York City. The group, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame back in 2007, had fragmented in recent years; but now there was an opportunity to perform at a tribute to Philly radio legend Wendy "Lady B" Clark, and at an upcoming gig at B.B. King's in Times Square.

But Rahiem's plans were dashed when he got shocking and tragic news. Just before midnight on August 1, 2017, Nathaniel Glover, aka The Kidd Creole of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, was arrested for the murder of a homeless man in Manhattan. John Jolly had been fatally stabbed on a midtown east corner, and Glover was taken into custody by the NYPD and eventually charged with second-degree murder.

"It completely deflated...all of my anticipation," Rahiem explains. "As far as my expectations, as far as the possibilities."

Nathaniel Glover was living in the Bronx and working as a maintenance man when the incident happened with Jolly. The story made major headlines, as the prosecution and most media platforms painted a picture of a murder sparked by homophobic rage. “He thought the complainant was hitting on him and thought that, ‘If this guy was hitting on me, he must think I’m gay, too,’ and that infuriated him,” Assistant District Attorney Mark Dahl told Judge Phyllis Chu, when he successfully argued for remand in 2017. That version of events is what was reiterated across media platforms, as the story was presented as an act of hate. It has been alleged that Jolly spoke to Glover as Glover was walking to his job that night; when Jolly said "What's up?," Glover reacted defensively, and Jolly continued his engagement. Their interaction became more hostile, and Jolly would be stabbed three times.

It was an unexpected and dark turn in a life that had seen its fair share of highs and lows.

In the late 1970s, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five rose through early Hip-Hop's ranks to become the premiere rap crew—first, in the Bronx, but eventually, in the world.

To call the legendary ensemble merely "significant" to Hip-Hop would do a great disservice to the vastness of the group's legacy. Flash himself is one of the pillars of Hip-Hop's initial burst, a charismatic deejay out of the Bronx who pioneered the art of mixing. In The Furious Five, he had a quintet of uniquely talented emcees: the stylish Eddie "Scorpio" Morris (aka Mr. Ness); the innovative Keith "Cowboy" Wiggins, the showman in Rahiem, the prolific frontman in Melvin "Melle Mel" Glover and the kinetic Kidd Creole, his older brother.

The group would be the first to make the transition from Bronx park jams to recording artists with their seminal 1979 single "Superrappin,'" and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five would go on to release some of early rap's most influential and popular songs, such as "White Lines (Don't Do It)" and "The Message."

Rahiem, Lavon and Kidd Creole from Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five performs at the U.I.C. Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois in January 1985. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

Amid drug use, label squabbles and deteriorating personal relationships, the original Furious Five splintered in the mid-1980s. Melle Mel enjoyed a successful solo career; Creole remained with Flash as The Furious Five continued with a revamped lineup. The group officially disbanded in the late 1980s, and Cowboy died of an overdose in 1989. But the classic lineup's surviving members reunited several times in the decades since for shows and tributes. They were celebrated at VH1's Hip-Hop Honors in 2005, and two years later, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Over the years, Creole experienced his own hardships in the form of addictions and minor arrests. By 2017, things were strained between The Furious Five, and Kidd Creole was far removed from his old life.

In the early 2010s, journalist and actor Nasser Metcalfe approached Rahiem about a possible documentary film about Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. "I was already hanging out with Rahiem," Metcalfe explains. "We had worked on some projects together, acting-wise. We'd [also] done some editing work together—he'd helped me with a few things." A native of Chicago, Metcalfe's connections to the group began back when he saw them at 12-years old.

"The first time I ever experienced Hip-Hop live and understood what the artform was all about was when I saw Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five perform live in 1982 on the Rick James tour," Metcalfe explains. His admiration continued, up through his developing bonds with the group members as an adult and seeking to tell their story. Over the course of becoming friendly with Melle Mel and Rahiem, Metcalfe got to know Creole. He'd eventually linked with Kidd Creole when the two hung out, incidentally, at another funk concert—this time a 2012 Cameo show. "That was our first time really connecting and we got to bond," he shares. Metcalfe would take notes from Creole about his perspective on The Furious Five. "This was a cool brother who had very strong ideas and beliefs and stood firm on them." Citing Creole's "sharp mind," Metcalfe noted his ability to see "the big picture."

"I was impressed with him—and his intelligence and level of commitment."

In 2017, Metcalfe was stunned to learn that Creole was facing a murder charge. "I found out about what transpired with Kidd Creole and him being arrested, pretty much like everyone else did—on social media and through the press. It was pretty disheartening, to say the least. This was a brother I'd gotten to know and developed a friendship and kinship with. This was a tragic turn of events that no one saw coming."

Glover's arrest came as a shock to all who knew him. Despite minor brushes with the law in the 1980s and 1990s, Nathaniel Glover wasn't anyone who consistently stayed in trouble. "We didn't go to jail on a regular," his sister Glander says of the Glover siblings' upbringing. "We didn't do that. You grow up in certain areas and you understand what generally goes on. But he's been in jail for five years."

Questioning the motives of the outgoing District Attorney, Glander's indignation at how long her brother was made to sit incarcerated while awaiting trial is obvious. "In detention," she says in frustration. "Who does that?"

Nathaniel Glover spoke to ROCK THE BELLS by phone in the weeks prior to his trial commencing in Manhattan. Glover explained his early days behind bars.

"First, they took me to Rikers Island," he says. "I was there for around two weeks, in August of 2017. Then I went to Brooklyn detention. It was a little bit different [there] because there was less people. They had individual cells; no more than 28 people in each quadrant. They had a day room where most of the detainees congregated. [But] I didn't really wanna be involved with...the day-to-day things that went on in jail—playing cards and dominos and chess. I wanted to stay away from any scenario that might bring a confrontation. Those are easy to happen [in prison]."

He would read books whenever the cart came around, and during his time in Brooklyn detention, he was able to "get away from the trials and tribulations" of daily prison life.

But there is no such privacy in "The Boat."

"In December of 2019, they moved us to Vernon C. Bain Center," he explains, before clarifying the famous institution's nickname. "Technically, it's not a boat, because it doesn't have an engine." He describes his personal space as "a guy 3 feet away on the right side, and a guy 3 feet away on the left side."

"I never spent any time in a shelter. But they say it's like living in a shelter."

"This is the longest I've ever been incarcerated," Creole says. "The other times, in '83 and '95, I was only incarcerated for five days. Now it's been four years and seven months without any resolution to my case..."

Since 2019, Glover has been held at the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Facility, aka the Vernon C. Bain Center, aka "The Boat"; a floating incarceration barge that is anchored off the Bronx's southern shore, near Hunts Point, across from Rikers Island. In addition to his and his family's frustration at the fact that Glover spent years incarcerated while awaiting trial, he is adamant that the full story isn't being shared.

"I believe in the justice system," a somber-but-resolute Glover says. "If I had the necessary funds to acquire attorneys of my choosing, I would not have been incarcerated for so long." His fight for adequate legal representation led to numerous false starts and a frustrated Glover believes that none of his previous representation were invested in his case. "Private attorneys paid by the state," he says. "They have been...less than forthcoming and willing to do the proper investigation in order for the truth to be revealed. Because I believe in the system, I know that at some point, the truth has to come out."

"It's been years," says his sister Glander.

Media coverage dwindled of Kidd Creole's predicament. Metcalfe's op-ed piece in The SOURCE drew some traction, as luminaries like Chuck D and Sway Calloway put out the word as to what was going on with a rap legend. LL COOL J and Fat Joe contributed to Kidd Creole's legal defense, but beyond that, much of Hip-Hop media seemed to barely take note of the case beyond that first burst of click-driven coverage of the stabbing and arrest.

After those initial headlines, Nathaniel Glover sat in a floating prison for almost five years. There was no major coverage of his ongoing incarceration.

For the supporters of Nathaniel Glover, the egregiousness by which the media ignored his ongoing story stings almost as powerfully as how that same media callously branded him a bigot. Attorney Scott Celestin felt compelled to take on the case after he was approached about it by a colleague.

"I got a call from a good friend of mine, an attorney based out of Queens," Celestin explained. "He called me and he shared some interest in this case. He told me to look into it. I immediately said I'd take this case on." Celestin was particularly drawn by the fact that Nathaniel Glover had been incarcerated for so long. "[It was] explained to me that Mr. Glover has been in jail for five years without a hearing or a trial. I thought that was of interest. [I was also told that] he was going on his fourth or fifth attorney at this point.

"I won't get into details about what happened with prior attorneys," Celestin states. "But I know Mr. Glover lost confidence in them and decided to go in a different direction."

Major platforms offered no further exploration of the circumstances surrounding Glover's arrest. Hip-Hop media and mainstream media plastered him with the tag of homophobe and moved to the next story. Homophobia in Hip-Hop has been an oft-discussed topic; Eminem lyrics; ongoing social media controversies from Boosie; DaBaby's infamous Rolling Loud rant in July 2021—it all serves as examples of anti-gay attitudes across rap. Legendary artists across the spectrum have songs in their respective discographies that are undeniably homophobic. Once it was implied that "flirting" was involved in the altercation between Nathaniel Glover and John Jolly, that narrative was amplified; with that version of events was widely disseminated as the unadulterated facts of the case.

"Initially, this case was painted in a view that Mr. Glover attacked this man," says Celestin. "And they put the spin on it that it had to do with the gentleman hitting on Mr. Glover or Mr. Glover thinking that the gentleman thought he was gay. What I believe is this: culturally, as Black men, or anytime you're a minority—especially in cities like New York—when Mr. Glover was trying to explain himself...he said the gentleman said 'What's up?' and there was some confusion."

"What Mr. Glover was trying to explain is, there is a checklist that you have to do in your mind as a Black man when someone says 'What's up?'"

It was Metcalfe who penned the op-ed that appeared on The SOURCE's homepage in spring 2021, offering voice to Glover's case and his perspective on what happened:

He has never disputed that he had a knife that night and used it against Jolly. Yet contends it is a clearcut case of self-defense—not murder and certainly not the result of some misguided hatred toward the LGBTQ community. 'Now I’m fighting the image that they portrayed me as a person who’s intolerant of people with alternative lifestyles and that’s not true,' Glover asserts."

- Nasser Metcalfe, "Kidd Creole Tells His Side Of The Story For the First Time..." (THE SOURCE, March 3, 2021)

What Mr. Glover was trying to explain is...there is a checklist that you have to do in your mind as a Black man when someone says 'What's up?'"

- Attorney Scott Celestin

"I think the crux of this case is going to come down to: can a Black man be scared of another Black man?" says Celestin. "Is this self-defense? Would we even be discussing [this] if this was an Asian person? Would [they] have to justify 'I felt scared?' What they're trying to do is minimize Mr. Glover's fear. And make this a quasi-hate crime or something—as opposed to 'I felt scared.' Everyday we look in the paper, it's someone being pushed on the track, someone being hit with a brick, it's someone being cut.

"Surprisingly, Mr. Glover is very optimistic. All Mr. Glover wanted was an attorney who cared. All he wanted was an attorney who was going to listen, communicate with him, but also—fight and advocate."

As he's awaited trial, Glover has kept a low-profile. He believes in not becoming too immersed in institutionalized life.

"I'm a disciplined person," he explains. "I don't fall in line with the environment around me. I have my own. I'm a leader. I'm not a follower. Even though all around me is all sorts of negative scenarios, I don't fall in line with all of that. Because I have my own personal beliefs and my faith in God."

I think the crux of this case is going to come down to: can a Black man be scared of another Black man? Is this self-defense? If this was an Asian person would [they] have to justify 'I felt scared?'"

- Attorney Scott Celestin

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All the while, Nathaniel Glover has maintained that this was a frightened man's act of defense that has been mischaracterized. While also maintaining his sense of self and overall state of mind.

"It's difficult for me, day-to-day, to get up every day and know that all of the resources of the criminal justice system are vast. And I have so little," he admits. "I have only the people that care about me. Be that as it may, I still have confidence that if I remain strong and keep my faith, things will work out for me. It's just a matter of time."

"And to tell the truth," the 62-year old adds wearily, "...I really don't have all that much."

"I still have family and friends that are supporting me. But [the system] has resources that are more effective than mine," Glover says succinctly. When asked about his bandmates and their support, The Kidd Creole gets quiet before responding.

"I believe they want the best for me. We'll leave it at that."

This past election, Alvin Bragg became Manhattan's first Black District Attorney. Bragg, a Democrat, succeeded District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who held the office since 2010. Celestin believes a new perspective will yield favorable results.

"There's a new D.A. in place. Our hope is to get before them and have a new set of eyes," Celestin says. "Sometimes when you have taken a position and get firmly rooted in that position, it gets really hard to pivot away from that. The same prosecutor has been on the case since [its] inception."

"I'm hoping this new administration will give this case a look and have a new set of eyes on it and go from there."

I'm a disciplined person. I don't fall in line with the environment around me. I have my own. I'm a leader. I'm not a follower. Even though all around me is all sorts of negative scenarios, I don't fall in line with all of that. Because I have my own personal beliefs and my faith in God."

- Nathaniel "Kidd Creole" Glover

For Nathaniel Glover's family, it's been a harrowing experience, watching him suffer. Because of COVID protocols, visitation has been limited at The Boat, and even various communication options are hampered by the hostile environment in the facility itself.

"I think a strong constitution is what keeps him," Glander says. "It takes a strong person to go through what he's going through. They do things like don't give him his mail. They open up his packages. It's ridiculous. It's to the point where I don't mail him letters anymore.

"There's a whole lot of behind-the-scenes garbage going on with the judicial system in New York City. I get that there's a whole lot of crime with young people, but they should be able to separate the garbage from legitimacy."

During his opening arguments, Celestin argued that, not only did Glover act in self-defense, but the hospital that administered medication to the wounded Jolly contributed to his death by prescribing him Versed, another name for the sedative Midazolam. “The label on Versed says, ‘Do not mix with alcohol' because it has adverse, deadly reactions,” Celestin said in court. “Even a normal person, with that level of alcohol, and given that level of that sedative, is going to stop breathing.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, the wound wasn’t fatal. The hospital and their negligence solely killed Mr. Jolly.”

The trial of Nathaniel Glover is underway currently. But the case of Kidd Creole is a curious one because it forces everyone to acknowledge how media, cultural climate and indifference can affect lives in unexpected ways. In a climate that is seeking to address society's homophobia while simultaneously calling out it's racism, there are moments where the rhetoric of easy headlines and the knee-jerk nature of social media judgments do more harm than good. For Nathaniel Glover, this chapter is still being written and it is impossible to predict how things will play out. He holds out hope that things will be resolved and he'll return home. His life and reputation have been forever altered by the past five years. In 2020, when Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five received Lifetime Achievement Grammys from the Recording Academy, Kidd Creole was not included in the honor.

"I can't adjust to this," he says in regards to the life he's been forced to live since 2017. "I refuse to be institutionalized. I've been a free man for so long."

As any man would, Nathaniel Glover wants his life back. And he wants his legacy back.

"I'm no different than any person that's walking the street," he says. "I'm no different than anybody else; I want what's good for the city, good for the government. [I want] to have a legacy that I can be proud of."

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