Made famous by Martin Scorcese s film Goodfellas, Jimmy "The Gent" Burke was one of the most prolific mob earners in New York history. But after the success of the infamous Lufthansa Heist, Burke unleashed a wave of murders that rocked New York City, and led to his downfall.
This episode focuses on the gangster of suburbia who led a double life, Alejandro Corredor. He seemed like an average family man living in the small town of Fairway, Kansas. But in his other life, he was Kansas City's cocaine pipeline, moving massive shipments from Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel. With the money from drugs, he invested in a local gangsta rap group called Block Life. Eventually, several members of Block Life helped him sell drugs to some of the most notorious gangs in Kansas City. As the money from drugs and the success of Block Life grew, Alejandro strove to keep a balance between his two worlds. But his dealings with the Sinaloa Cartel led him down a dangerous path that would threaten to destroy everything.
In a decade long criminal run, the Cutt Boyz used violence to control the drug trade within the B.W. Cooper Housing Complex in New Orleans. Washington became the main supplier of Heroin, while Benjamin grew his murderous reputation as a main enforcer and was eventually responsible for three murders. Following a unique investigation approach, federal authorities indicted 11 Cutt Boyz under the RICO statutes for narcotics distribution and murder. But federal authorities weren't prepared for Hurricane Katrina's catastrophic destruction in 2005, which damaged evidence and displaced witnesses. Ultimately, they were able to piece together the case and successfully convicted all 11 Cutt Boyz. Washington received a 20-year sentence, while Benjamin will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Who can forget Angela Bassett as Tina Turner or Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles? Do you remember who played Billie Holiday? Or who Beyoncé performed as in the film Cadillac Records? More recent African-American biopics include the Lifetime original movie Betty & Coretta (2013), starring Angela Bassett as Coretta Scott King and Mary J. Blige as Betty Shabazz, and The Butler (2013), starring Forest Whitaker and based on the life of Eugene Allen.
View our photos of African-American biopics to compare these famous figures to the actors and actresses who have portrayed them.
Many African-Americans made their name performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, including Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. The roster of talented artists who made their careers after a successful amateur night at the Apollo grew so large, that the venue earned a reputation as the place to jump-start the career of an ambitious hopeful. Other performers, like Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson, came to the theater after experiencing big professional success, adding further credibility to the historic New York concert hall. Explore the biographies of some of the more notable African-Americans who stepped out onto the Apollo stage, making entertainment history.
Spanning jazz to soul to funk, to more contemporary genres like R&B, rap and pop, African-American musicians are responsible for chart-topping hits like "I Feel Good," "Respect," "Georgia on My Mind," "Let The Good Times Roll," "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "Thriller." Explore our collection of famous black musicians, including Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, B.B. King, Duke Ellington, James Brown, Little Richard, Beyoncé Knowles, and more.
From Whitney Houston's unbelievable vocal range to Michael Jackson's spot-on pitch and unforgettable choreography, these are the famous black singers who, together, have unequivocally defined pop culture for the masses for more than a century. Explore this group to learn more about some of the world's most renowned African-American vocalists, including Josephine Baker, Whitney Houston, Sammy Davis Jr., Aretha Franklin, Beyoncé Knowles, Chuck Berry, Nina Simone, Mary J. Blige, André 3000, Janet Jackson and Gladys Knight.
In the 1920s, women like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith were the first—and for a while, the only—artists to record the blues. American women of this era made great strides toward gaining equality and basic human rights for themselves and others in society, including attaining the right to vote and working toward social justice. The 20th century was a wide-open opportunity for women to embrace the modern world, outside of the traditional bounds of the home.
During the early 20th century, African-American poets, musicians, actors, artists and intellectuals moved to Harlem in New York City and brought new ideas that shifted the culture forever. From approximately 1918 to the mid 1930s, talent began to overflow within this newfound culture of the black community in Harlem, as prominent figures—Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, to name a few—pushed art to its limit as a form of expression and representation. These are some of the famous African Americans who shaped the influential movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.
After the Civil War, many of the country's best and brightest black advocates, artists, entrepreneurs and intellectuals moved to the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. Thanks largely to the efforts of these residents, Harlem became both the cradle of a cultural revolution and the heart of the civil rights movement. Meet some of the many people who gave—and continue to give—this neighborhood a voice, simply by calling it home.
With its roots in the blues, jazz has been referred to as America's classical music, yet has also become a major global phenomenon, branching off into a variety of forms. Earlier pioneers like Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton paved the way for the swinging big-band sounds of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. In contrast, contemporaries Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk developed bebop, with its speedy, dissonant harmonies and improvisations. And Miles Davis heralded the birth of cool jazz, modal jazz and fusion at different points in his career. Famous jazz instrumentalists have tended to be male, yet women have been at the forefront of the genre when it comes to vocalization, from the brassy blues of Bessie Smith to the haunting eclecticism of Nina Simone.
Jazz vocalists have made immeasurable contributions to the American songbook. Not only was Louis Armstrong renowned for his innovations as a trumpet soloist, but he also had a distinctive, gravelly voice that incorporated swing and humor. A host of other jazz singers enjoyed great popularity in the mid-20th century, including Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne and Nina Simone. Several established careers in film and television as well. Contemporary artists like Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Krall continue to carry the musical baton.
When musicians land big fame, there typically comes a moment of reinvention in which the "rock star" identity is born. This new persona often requires a new name, a way to differentiate between the private and public versions of themselves. Musical monikers take different forms, from the simple, last-name changes aimed at boosting celebrity appeal—like Steven Tyler—to the glamorized version of a childhood nickname—like Jay-Z. Musicians' nicknames and aliases tend to take on an identity all their own over time, often becoming as full of personality as the artists they represent.
In entertainment, where the line between fiction and reality is often blurry, names are a crucial part of a celebrity's image. Stage names are often chosen to make an actor or musician's name easier to pronounce or remember, or simply to make it sounds more attractive. Here are famous celebrities who have changed their names.
They make music with instruments they were born with - their voices. Gifted vocalists have entertained audiences across musical genres from the tour de force arias of Luciano Pavarotti to the classic crooning of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett to the soulful vocals of artists like Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson. With their powerful lyricism, singers like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Bruce Springsteen became poet laureates of American music while artists including Joan Baez and Joe Strummer used their voices to prompt social change while they entertained. Rockers from Elvis Presley to The Beatles to Kurt Cobain helped define their generations through their songs while icons like Michael Jackson, Cher and Whitney Houston shaped pop culture with their larger-than-life voices and personas. See these and more famous singers who have struck a chord in musical history.