CHAPTER FIVE

YBI to the Day I Die

 James “Pep” Cooper (second from right) and other members of Young Boys Incorporated. The drug organization was known for employing teenagers, branding their heroin, and aggressively expanding into new territory in Detroit.

James “Pep” Cooper (second from right) and other members of Young Boys Incorporated. The drug organization was known for employing teenagers, branding their heroin, and aggressively expanding into new territory in Detroit.

It’s the early eighties, and a new organization is revolutionizing the heroin trade: Young Boys Inc. Unlike other drug operations, YBI recruits juveniles, brands smack as if it were designer clothing, and moves the industry out of the dope houses and onto the corners. As YBI’s relentless expansion causes more and more bloodshed, its foot soldiers must reckon with their impact on Detroit.

LISTEN TO CHAPTER FIVE


CAFE D’MONGO’s

 Larry Mongo is a fixture at Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy in downtown Detroit. The bar is filled with old photos and artifacts, many of which are crime-related.  Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Larry Mongo is a fixture at Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy in downtown Detroit. The bar is filled with old photos and artifacts, many of which are crime-related. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Cafe D’Mongo’s is filled with old photos, like this shot of Larry and his wife Dianne wearing white mink furs at the 1971 Muhammad Ali-Joe Frasier fight in New York City — the same fight that heroin kingpin Eddie Jackson attended. Photo by Drew Nelles.

It’s what I call... It’s not Art Deco or Art Nouveau. It’s early attic or late basement design.
— Larry Mongo
 Larry Mongo and his wife Dianne were close with Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, right. They are pictured here with Vice President Walter Mondale, left.  Courtesy of Larry Mongo.

Larry Mongo and his wife Dianne were close with Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, right. They are pictured here with Vice President Walter Mondale, left. Courtesy of Larry Mongo.


BOSS DOGs

As a drug supplier to Young Boys Incorporated, Benji Mongo could afford to live lavishly. In this photo, which hangs in Cafe D’Mongo’s, Benji is observing a Prince concert from the Mayoral Suite of the Joe Louis Arena. But when his youngest brother, Skip, started hanging out with Dwayne “Wonderful Wayne” Davis of YBI, Benji made it clear that he did not want Skip in the drug world. Photo by Drew Nelles.

What am I? A young boy. And I’m riding with the boss every day.
— SKIP MONGO
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THEM YOUNG BOYS

 One of YBI’s major innovations was moving the sale of drugs out of the dope houses and onto the corners, which allowed dealers to more easily escape police raids.  Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

One of YBI’s major innovations was moving the sale of drugs out of the dope houses and onto the corners, which allowed dealers to more easily escape police raids. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Man, them young boys down there on the corner got a motherfucker.
— Pep Cooper
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According to Detroit Police Department narcotics officer Delbert Jennings, these were some of the street corners where YBI would sell heroin in the late 1970s and early 1980s. On occasion, they would give away free drugs to attract customers. Photos by Drew Nelles.


YBI EXPANDS

Detroit_Free_Press_Sun__Dec_12__1982_.png
They would turn these quiet neighborhoods into a circus.
— Delbert Jennings
The biggest baddest toughest gang in Detroit? The Police Department. I want you to kick their asses.
— Coleman Young, According to Ike MCkinnon

EPISODE CREDITS

Crimetown is Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier. This season is made in partnership with Gimlet Media and Spotify. It’s produced by Rob Szypko, John White, Soraya Shockley, and Samantha Lee. The senior producer is Drew Nelles. Editing by Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling. Fact-checking by Jennifer Blackman. This episode was mixed, sound designed, and scored by Sam Bair. Additional sound design by Kenny Kusiak. Original music this season composed by Homer Steinweiss. We recorded some original music at Rustbelt Studios in Detroit in partnership with Detroit Sound Conservancy. Special thanks to Carleton Gholz and Maurice “Pirahnahead” Herd. Additional music by John Kusiak, Kenny Kusiak, and Jon Ivans, and additional mixing by Bobby Lord. Our theme song is “Politicians In My Eyes” by Death. Our credit music this week is “I Won’t Be Your Fool” by Detroit Soul Ambassador Melvin Davis.

Archival research by Brennan Rees. Archival footage courtesy of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History. Show art and design by James Cabrera and Elise Harven. To learn more about YBI, check out the book “Bound By Honor, Torn By Greed: The True and Untold Story of Young Boys Incorporated,” by Pep Cooper, Piks M., and India Williams. Thanks to the Detroit Free Press, Peter Bhatia, Jim Schaeffer, Mary Schroeder, Mary Wallace, the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University, Melissa Samson, the Detroit Historical Society, Chuck Lindsey, Michael Squirewell, Bill Dwyer, Otis Culpepper, Al Kirschner, Vince Wade, Scott Burnstein, Mark Binelli, Charlie LeDuff, and everyone who shared their stories with us. Detroit is an amazing place, and we’re honored to tell a small part of its story.