YOU READ (AND HEARD) IT HERE FIRST: Authorities today dropped additional charges on rapper/producer Juelz Santana in connection with two fully-loaded 9mm handguns, several boxes of ammunition, and 17 dime bags of pot they said they found while arresting freestyle rapper Toby M. “Hynief” Raynor last month. Santana, 28, whose real name is Laron James, is being held on $125,000 bail at the Bergen County Jail.
Santana wasn’t there when detectives picked off Raynor during the Jan. 20 raid at the “Santana’s World” recording studio on South Washington Avenue in Bergenfield.
Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said Wednesday that his detectives believe Santana — who co-founded “The Diplomats” (aka “The Dipsets”) and the “Skull Gang,” which included Raynor — is a member of the Bloods.
Raynor, 24, was released on bail soon after a team of Bergen County SWAT team members, Bergen County prosecutor’s detectives, Bergen County Sheriff’s officers and Bergenfield police burst into the studio.
In an interview with Chicago’s Power 92, Santana briefly described the raid: “They always picking on me — that’s the best way I can put it. But by the graces of God, everything should be OK. I wasn’t caught with anything in my possession.” (To listen to the interview, CLICK HERE)
The Harlem-based Skull Gang (Street Kids United by Loyalty & Loot) is a loose-knit group formed in 2007 by Santana who primarily record on the Skull Gang Entertainment label — although Molinelli contends that a spin-off, The Diplomats, is actually a Bloods sub-set. Skull Gang members have worked with, among others, rap legend Jim Jones, Lil Wayne and Mike Epps.
Santana apologized to fans for missing a show in Chicago following the bust: “A! If it ant 1 thing it’s another smh sorry to all the people in chi-town that came out last night I couldn’t make It!! Trouble wit the law.”
Santa’s first album, “From Me to U” was released on Russell Simmons’ popular Def Jam label in 2003. His follow-up, “What the Game’s Been Missing!” spawned a Top 10 single: “There It Go (The Whistle Song).”
The son of an African-American mother and Dominican father, he reportedly began rapping at 5 — and at 12, was signed to his first record deal as part of the duo Draft Pick.
In August 2008, Dipset founder Cam’ron told an interviewer that he had sold Santana’s contract to Def Jam Records for $2 million, opening an already-existing rift between the two.
Santana had been working on his third album, “Born to Lose, Built to Win,” on his own Skull Gang label, working out of Bergenfield. Santana moved his operations there after running a clothing and music store on Amsterdam Avenue between 150th and 151st Streets in the Bronx.
A few singles already have appeared from the album, including “Back to the Crib,” featuring Chris Brown, last year.
A Dipset reunion made news last June, with a street single featuring Santana, Jim Jones and Cam’ron. A quick tour followed, but an album has yet to be released.