Exclusive TheSource.com interview with “The Father of The Street Documentaries Movement” Troy Reed
When Troy Reed’s name is brought up, it’s mostly in conjunction with arguably his most well-known production, Game Over. That particular documentary was about the AZ, Rich Porter, and Alpo story. Of course, that story also inspired the hood classic Paid In Full. The documentary kicked off a new genre of documentaries that focused not on ‘Mafia Figures’ like Pablo Escobar, but the black gangsters and hustlers that were successful but whose stories are unknown and untold to the masses.
Nowadays, you can find Reed at Sneaker Pawn, where he is trying to make history again with his son, Chase Reed. The first sneaker pawn shop the world has ever seen right in the heart of Harlem.
I’m doing the sneaker pawn shop with my son. I helped back the whole idea from buying sneakers going back and forth with him about sneakers.”
Reed says Sneaker Pawn has been very successful thus far. The store has been featured on a number of outlets like CNBC, The Steve Harvey Show, Fox Business, CBS News, NY Post and many others. According to Reed, Sneaker Pawn is set to expand with locations in Los Angeles and Midtown Manhattan later this year.
“He is going through the stages of being a young entrepreneur” says Reed. While his son chases history turning sneakers into a commodity like metals or gold, Troy has made history already in a different realm and that is street documentaries. Classic films about Guy Fisher, Karlton Hines, Larry Davis, and Rayful Edmonds are among the documentaries Reed has released under his Street Stars company. Reed, who hails from the South Bronx (Patterson Projects), got the idea while hustling on the block listening to the tales of people who were in the street in the 1970s.
As a little kid, I was always intrigued by cars, people, and order in the neighborhood. I started hustling and the guys who used to run with Nicky Barnes and Guy Fisher became fiends, so I used to give them money and they would tell me stories about those days.”
Guy Fisher, also from the South Bronx, was a major figure on the streets during the 70s and early 80s, before he was sentenced to life in prison. As luck would have it, Reed talked about the stories the old-time hustlers told him to his friend Prince, who happened to be friends with AZ from Harlem; the focus of the Game Over documentary. From there, Reed met AZ and blessed him with the pictures that started their collaboration. The story was initially featured in Street Stars Magazine, but the competition noticed what was happening causing Reed to switch his hustle to DVDs. The Game Over documentary quickly became highly regarded, and according to Reed it started getting bootlegged. Reed recalls,
It went viral on the streets, FEDS Magazine and Don Diva caught wind of it at the same time, and started focusing in on that story which helped push it forward.”
Soon other documentaries like the Larry Davis Story, Karlton Hines, and Rayful Edmonds were produced. Reed even revisited the Game Over story, but this time featuring Alpo who was serving time in jail while he explained his story. As the popularity grew from hood to hood, mainstream America caught on and eventually jumped on the trend. BET’s American Gangster and The History Channel’s Gangland arguably could be considered answers to the kind of demand Street Stars generated. While the series started taking off, Reed was essentially left out in the cold, and his name was not mentioned as the genre became bigger.
At the time, I was a little disappointed, I felt like we created that market and now you people not from the environment benefiting off of it. I felt that we (Don Diva, Feds Magazine, and I) should have partnered up, but after I saw how people moved I fell back.”
Reed talks of meeting with different networks and having issues with George Nelson of American Gangster over the series…
“They didn’t come to me because they were stealing from me. I went up to BET with 50 people, but I fell back from the whole situation” says Reed. “When I finally sat down with these networks, I could have helped them make it more raw, that’s what I told them when I sat down with them.” Troy states he made a lot of money, but was tired of the grind. He also noticed the market changed. “The market shifted after my deal with Warner Brothers, BET, and The History Channel saturated the market, DVDs wasn’t selling and I moved on from there” says Reed.
Overall, the market has changed where DVDs were once dominant; streaming has taken hold and continues to grow worldwide. Retailers like Best Buy and FYE have closed down. As for the market of street culture documentaries, Reed says the market is gone.
I don’t think the stories are as fascinating as they once were. People are tired of hearing them, before you had to go deep down in the ghetto to get them, which was the biggest fascination with what we were doing.”
According to Reed, everyone is a gangster now, and the market for those stories has saturated.
The new market is motorcycles, motorbikes, sneakers, skateboarders, those are the new street guys, they are the new hustlers. The kids in the street now instead of buying Rolexes and Benzes, they are buying sneakers. The people intrigued with street documentaries are from the 1980s, they are 30 years old and up. The kids now aren’t really interested in that.”
The change in audience pushed Reed to jump into their world. He says you have to move with the times or the times will move without you. So his focus is now Street Pawn. “I think what I did with Street Stars, he can do with sneakers” says Reed regarding his son. As far as his legacy goes with Street Stars, Reed feels he gets his respect.
I didn’t make the money I was supposed to make, but I got my just due. My legacy is my son and Sneaker Pawn. I have given the world its first sneaker pawn shop; I helped create a new commodity that people see value in. My son created something, I want to help my daughter create something. Devils steal, only gods create and my goal is to keep being a creator.”
Reed has plans to shoot a behind the scenes documentary with his son Chase showing the father-son dynamic while running the shop. The documentary is coming out soon and will be on YouTube and the Sneaker Pawn website. As his son continues on the path of being an entrepreneur, Dame Dash recently made news about his views on entrepreneurship, which Reed commented on as well.
I kind of agree with him in setting a future business for your kids, it was a powerful thing he said. Dame has proven he is one of the few that helps his own kind. My son is a 16-year-old entrepreneur, from Harlem, and has been highlighted in the media. On the other hand we haven’t seen any of the big celebrities from Harlem come in to the shop. I won’t knock him for what he was saying, but in regards to our own kind, we aren’t reaching back to help businesses and take them to the next level.”