EPISODE ELEVEN

The Hip Hop Mayor

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick joins Eminem and Nas on stage at the 2003 Hip Hop Summit at Detroit’s Cobo Arena. That weekend, Russell Simmons declared Kwame “America’s hip hop mayor,” a moniker that would become a source of both pride and trouble for the young mayor.  Courtesy of Tim and Tobias Smith.

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick joins Eminem and Nas on stage at the 2003 Hip Hop Summit at Detroit’s Cobo Arena. That weekend, Russell Simmons declared Kwame “America’s hip hop mayor,” a moniker that would become a source of both pride and trouble for the young mayor. Courtesy of Tim and Tobias Smith.

To his supporters, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is a new breed of politician: young, cool, and in touch with black culture. To his critics, his flashy appearance and taste for nightlife are evidence of his immaturity. Rumors about Kilpatrick begin to swirl: sky-high spending, an out-of-control entourage, and wild parties at the mayoral mansion. Is Kwame Kilpatrick in over his head? Or is he being targeted because of his race?

LISTEN TO EPISODE ELEVEN


NEW MAYOR, NEW LOOK

The day after he was elected mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick looks out the window of his 65th-floor suite at the Marriott Renaissance Center while fielding a congratulatory call.  Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

The day after he was elected mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick looks out the window of his 65th-floor suite at the Marriott Renaissance Center while fielding a congratulatory call. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Kwame kisses his wife, Carlita, while she holds their infant son, Jonas, during a community reception at Cass Tech High School during Kwame’s inauguration week in 2002.  Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Kwame kisses his wife, Carlita, while she holds their infant son, Jonas, during a community reception at Cass Tech High School during Kwame’s inauguration week in 2002. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

At Kwame’s inauguration ceremony in 2002, outgoing Detroit mayor Dennis Archer and the members of City Council joined him to sing “Together We Stand.”  Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

At Kwame’s inauguration ceremony in 2002, outgoing Detroit mayor Dennis Archer and the members of City Council joined him to sing “Together We Stand.” Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

I would say there was an initial prejudice going into it, because he was so young.
— Tunesia Turner
Kwame Kilpatrick refrained from wearing his diamond stud earring on the campaign trail, but put it back in once he assumed office. The earring set off a public debate about the mayor’s youth and ability to lead.  Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Kwame Kilpatrick refrained from wearing his diamond stud earring on the campaign trail, but put it back in once he assumed office. The earring set off a public debate about the mayor’s youth and ability to lead. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

It wasn’t that I was trying to be flashy. I was being me.
— Kwame Kilpatrick
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Kwame’s flashy sense of style added to the controversy about his earring. Instead of wearing more traditional suits, he often opted for louder fabrics and patterns. His defenders considered the outsized attention to his wardrobe a sign of racism in the media. Photos courtesy of the Detroit Free Press and Tim and Tobias Smith.


The HIP HOP MAYOR

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Hip hop was the theme music to my maturation process.
— Kwame Kilpatrick

THE AVALANCHe

In 2002, rumors began to swirl about a wild party at the Manoogian Mansion, the official residence of the mayor of Detroit. The stories varied, but often alleged that Kwame and some friends received lap dances from strippers.  Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

In 2002, rumors began to swirl about a wild party at the Manoogian Mansion, the official residence of the mayor of Detroit. The stories varied, but often alleged that Kwame and some friends received lap dances from strippers. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

We spent way more time and way more resources than we ever should have investigating the Manoogian Mansion party. But along the way we found out so much we never would have known about Kilpatrick.
— M.L. Elrick
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Click to read further.

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Click to read further.

Click to read further.


DRUMBEAT OF SCANDAL

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People are like, ‘Wait a minute, this guy is horrible, he’s a monster.’ When did I become a monster?
— Kwame Kilpatrick
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At times, the Detroit Free Press editorial page featured criticism of the mayor’s conduct. Op-eds, cartoons, and letters to the editor called into question Kwame’s maturity, his style, his embrace of hip hop culture, and his handling of scandals.


EPISODE CREDITS

Crimetown is Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier. This season is made in partnership with Gimlet Media and Spotify. This episode was produced by John White, Samantha Lee, Soraya Shockley, and Rob Szypko. 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. 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 Kenny Kusiak, John Kusiak, Jon Ivans, and Edwin. Additional mixing by Bobby Lord.



Our theme song is “Politicians In My Eyes” by Death. Our credit music this week is “Cold Steel” by Phat Kat. Archival research by Brennan Rees. Archival material courtesy of WXYZ and the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University. Show art and design by James Cabrera and Elise Harven. Thanks to the Detroit Free Press, Peter Bhatia, Mary Schroeder, Mary Wallace, Max White, Randy Lundquist, Erick Hetherington at D&D Video, Devin Scillian, Melissa Samson, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, the Detroit Historical Society, Brendan Roney, Khary Turner, Mike Martin, Ron Fleming, Darci McConnell, Miles Feldsott, and everyone who shared their stories with us. Detroit’s an amazing place, and we’re honored to tell a small part of its story.