Around 1999 when I started wasting all my time on the Internet, I came across a site called Urbanexpose.com. It was based in New York and primarily concerned with mocking organisations that ranged from self-proclaimed ‘urban’ dot com’s to media moguls, magazines and media companies. The site was highly entertaining, not only because of the way each article was written but because its author, a person known only as Crispus Attucks, was consistently serving up factual information that seemed to be originating from within the walls of the establishments that he was targeting. Within weeks of its appearance, the site had media hipsters all over New York shaking in their boots; much to the glee of rubberneckers and disgruntled employees who were clearly in on the joke but protected by an anonymous website that nobody could fire or sue for libel.
It was at the height of Urbanexpose’s troublemaking that I met the site’s creator on Instant Messenger who turned out to be John Lee, a Jamaican living in New York and an original member of a notorious hacking group, The Masters of Deception (MOD).
In those days, Lee (who was known as Corrupt) had actually done federal prison time for participating in what became known as The Great Hacker War. As a result, Lee shot to notoriety becoming the first black person to appear on the cover of Wired Magazine.
When he was released from jail, John went to Brooklyn College, earning himself a couple of degrees (Physics and Film Studies), and was talented enough as a writer to land work as a consultant for 60 minutes as well as for Comedy Central.
One day, after about a year of terrorising New York media types with his horrid website, Lee suddenly revealed himself to WNBC commentator Omar Wasow on a programme called Today in New York and the gig was up. He’d admittedly become bored with shooting fish in a barrel, and soon he re-directed all of his attention back to film and video development.
After several years collaborating with Lee on a few pranks over the Internet and endless IM’s (he usually starts conversation’s with ‘Fuk you’), I finally met him in person in Brooklyn. He had recently completed a documentary for a hip hop group called Dead Prez and was hanging around with a slightly drunk Melvin Van Peebles in a dodgy Fort Green bar.
He (Lee) had a permanent grin on his face (even though he claimed to be depressed), was wearing a weird green baseball cap, and told me I looked like a circus freak walking around Brooklyn with a girl that was way too tall for me.
I asked him what he was doing there with Van Peebles and he muttered something about the possibility of getting funding for another documentary (not about rappers). Then he emptied an entire bottle of beer down his throat and belched as a creepy Van Peebles said something inappropriate to my Haitian giraffe (that is, the girl who was too tall for me).
Later at the opening night of his documentary in an overcrowded club in Manhattan, Lee, me and my cousin stood around trying to get drunk on cheap wine while everyone ignored his work on the screen; choosing instead to crowd around Dead Prez who on the other side of the club jumping around and making a lot of shit noise.
I called him a loser (he agreed and said he was going to kill himself later that night) and I berated him for living in New York, and for being an overeducated black man on the cover of Wired who was just as poor as I was.
Months later, Lee and I are still friends and every time ‘Go fuk urself Jafaken’ pops up on my screen, I know John hasn’t quite lost it and blown his brains out with a shotgun (like he promises to do almost every other day).
These days, there’s talk of Lee coming to Kingston (if we can somehow raise enough money to install him in a board house somewhere along a gully bank in Grants Pen), and he continues to fight the often depressing battle of a black filmmaker, trapped in a world where rap videos and electronic press kits (EPK’s) pay the rent.
Boo f**** hoo!
Interview w/ John Lee (Jan. 11, 2008)
Tell us exactly what you did to get yourself thrown in prison. I understand it has to do with making prank calls?
I got thrown in jail for conspiracy to access devices. That doesn’t sound so bad – but it was worth about two years out of my life. Basically we controlled all the telephone networks in the USA and beyond and that was a sticking point for the three letter agencies.
What was prison like?
Prison is like boy scouts – except the other inmates aren’t as gentle when they are molesting you and they give you merit badges for lighting cigarettes with triple A batteries, sneaking chicken into your cell by hiding it in your nut sack, and cutting another human being with a metal shank from his lower intestine to his neck. Needless to say – I ran my prison with an iron hand as a leader – it’s easy cuz lots of cats in there have really low IQ’s – seriously.
Your site Urbanexpose was doing really well until you decided to go on WNBC and spoil the whole joke. Why did you reveal yourself? You had a good thing going and you could probably be making a lot of Google Adsense money now if you weren’t so fame hungry. What happened there?
I wanted to do film. I don’t really have an ego – which you need for huge success. I don’t really need anyone else’s approval to create things. I really don’t have anything witty to say about it – it kind of stands on its own. The only part people won’t know about it all the ill things I did to get the stories behind the site. Some legal, some illegal – like stealing execs limos and pretending to be them at conferences or sneaking into corporate parties on Ellis Island in a wetsuit ready to jump off the side if things got hectic.
As a young, well, not so young anymore black filmmaker, do you think there’s an alternative way to get yourself noticed without making rap videos or going back to being a criminal?
No. There isn’t any other way -but I’m trying – check out www.hackateer.com – that’s what’s coming next – hell or highwaters. Why you keep saying black filmmaker though? Who you talking to? Me?
Do you still hack? If so, would you consider making a film about hacking or was that already done with War Games?
I have a lot of hacker stories that are totally untapped. I wonder if I’ll ever get to tell them. I’ve been in some systems with data that would make you shit green.
Where is Van Peebles?
Eating tobacco I’d imagine. Finishing his new film that I shot for him more likely.
You upset a lot of people on urbanexpose.com. You think being mean is funny?
It wasn’t really being mean – most of the acerbic comments came from the users. I may be guilty of pointing them in the right direction though. You think being mean is funny. I’m super PC and think of mostly flowers and stuff like that.
Why do you wear that green hat everywhere?
When I had cash I bought like 10 of them. Now that I’m flat broke again I am cursed to wear the same thing everyday because the only thing in my wardrobe is 10 copies of the same outfit.
As a person of Jamaican parentage, what do you tell your people that you really do for a living?
Could you imagine trying to explain directing? It’s easier to just say you work for UPS driving a lorry or something. I usually just saying I don’t do anything for a living, which gets you girls. Rude bwoy nah work.
Where do you want to be in a year?
Not Here. I live next to a woman who is super obese and when she empties her bowels it stinks up the entire hallway. What the f*** is she eating?
You dig the white ladies?
Is that relevant? I like all women equally. I don’t have any preference. I judge it totally on what’s in their head (no actresses please).
What are you reading now or has your addiction to the Internet burned out your ability to concentrate on things that aren’t on a screen?
You too eh? Books feel funny. I think we should burn them now.
Anything else of importance that I may have left out?
Yah F**k u