Life in the PJ’s
We set up my first interview with Half in the stairwell of his building in the Albany Projects, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. This interview became the backbone of the film. While I was interviewing Half, was smoking weed and drinking the entire five hours, his crew was in the hall, doing the same, with the exception of his security that sat above and behind him at all times. At one point, my female PA got smart ass with one of the guys in the hall and I had to remind her that we were in a circumstance where she could get her butt shot off because she had attitude.
The next time she poked her head into the stairwell to tell me something, I could see she was scared. That actually relieved me, because I believed it meant she was keeping her wits about her. And truthfully, I was scared too, because I wanted to know so much, and for me and Half, we were at the real beginning of our working relationship and I had NO IDEA what was going to happen, not only in the interview, at any given moment, or in the process of making the movie. And little did I know that I would grow to love this man.
What follows is a short excerpt from transcripts of the early part of the Stairwell Interview with Half.
Maggie: What was it like for you growing up in the projects?
Half: Growing up in the projects is like trying to find a road, but trying to find the right road, but there’s a million roads. It’s difficult to choose one. You’re around so many people who do so many different things. Some good, some bad. When you’re living in a building it’s a lot different from living in a house, cause when you live in a house you may see your neighbors once in a while. Some people live in houses don’t even know their neighbors, may see them once in a while, “How you doing?”…but in a complex like this, you have maybe 300 people living in this building. And you got ten buildings. So you have mixed ideas, mixed feelings. It’s like you all living in one house.
…You see people everyday. You’re little brother might come home, say the guy on the sixth floor slapped me, so you gotta go knock on the guy’s door. It’s like relationships. Everybody gets to know each other. You’re gonna wanta get to know your neighbor. That just makes you feel more comfortable. And you got all kinds of influences…
You may have somebody on the first floor that goes to Manhattan and snatches chains and pocketbooks. And gets money doing it. And you may have somebody on the second floor dealing drugs. Or you may have somebody on the third floor who wants to go to the library. You have different kinds of people doing different types of things. And then you may be the kind of person who influences people.
… A person can influence you to do something, and you be doing that for the rest of your life. People get caught of in a lot of things. This whole complex is like a different kind of life. It’s like a hustle. Everything is a hustle.
M: Pikasoe said that growing up in the projects was exciting and dangerous. Was it that way for you?
H: Yeah. When you’re young it’s all good, all exciting, it’s the hype. Doing stickups, getting money, rolling a dice game. You feel you have money, you feel you have respect. Walking around, feeling fly, going in the store, boosting. Getting clothes, doing things that make you think you like a gangster, or makes you think you’re a bad man.
There’s an expression, “I ain’t no joke.” Everybody wants that sense of respect, that sense of control… Being a male, you’re taught to be aggressive. Being a male means a person that breaks people up. You’re strong, boxing, a karate man, a soldier. So you’re born with that nature. As you get older, people know you have that in you, so they try to direct it in you…