James Rosemond can’t escape his past. Try as he may, the sins of his former life still haunt him. Known for years as “Jimmy Henchmen,” Rosemond has earned a reputation as a fearsome figure in the music industry as well as the streets. The fact that he's currently serving six life sentences while waiting for a retrial on murder-for-hire allegations only adds to the mystique. But during the course of a two-hour phone conversation from prison, the longtime manager proves himself to be more benevolent than violent.
Transitioning from the streets to the music industry in the early 90s, Rosemond, who founded Czar Entertainment in 2003, made his mark as a manager, working with everyone from to The Game and Sean Kingston to Akon and Mike Tyson, among others. Despite all his success behind the scenes, Rosemond often found himself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. 2Pac infamously suggested that Rosemond set him up to be robbed back in 1994 (a charge Jimmy has always vehemently denied); before the turn of the century Rosemond served several years in Federal prison for gun possession and conspiracy to distribute cocaine; and, at the height of the beef between G-Unit and his client The Game, Rosemond and those close to him became targets as well.
In 2007, Rosemond’s 14-year-old son, James, Jr., was en route to his father’s Manhattan offices wearing a Czar Entertainment T-shirt when he was approached by Tony Yayo and his entourage. According to reports, the men surrounded James, Jr. and backhanded him across the face. Yayo was initially charged with harassment and endangering the welfare of a child, but G-Unit’s Lowell “Lodi Mack” Fletcher later admitted to being the one who actually assaulted Rosemond’s son and was sentenced to nine months in prison. Two weeks after his release in 2009, Fletcher was shot and killed in the Bronx.
Although Rosemond was eventually implicated in Fletcher’s murder and has spent the past six years in prison for the alleged murder-for-hire as well as separate drug trafficking charges—which collectively accounts for six life sentences—he maintains his innocence. “I never told anyone to kill the guy,” Rosemond tells Complex via phone. “When [a contact] told me he had a way to get to Lowell Fletcher, I asked if he could bring him to me. What these guys went ahead and did was ended up killing Lowell Fletcher, which was not what I asked them to do.”
Based on the shooters corroborating Rosemond’s account as well as errors made by the judge in the case, his murder-for-hire conviction was overturned last Fall and he’s currently awaiting a retrial, tentatively scheduled for this November. In an extended jailhouse interview with Complex, Rosemond opens up about how the past six years have impacted his family, his friendship with 50 Cent’s deceased manager Chris Lighty, and the fakeness of the music industry.
ON HIS SON’S ASSAULT
When my son told me I had to triple check to make sure what he was telling me was correct. The first thing I did was run downstairs and the parking attendant, who witnessed the whole thing, told me that the guys had left. The instincts of a father when you hear that your child is assaulted or hurt… what happened put me in all kinds of emotional states. I was angry. I felt like it was unnecessary. I didn't understand how children had gotten involved with [this rap beef].
The instincts of a father when you hear that your child is assaulted or hurt… I was angry. I felt like it was unnecessary. I didn't understand how children had gotten involved with this rap beef.
I really don't believe that they knew that that was my son, because the parking attendant had said that after they did what they did he told them that it was my son and [the attendant] said that they looked very shocked. I really believe that they just thought it was a kid [in a Czar T-shirt] they could pick on.
The first thing I told [50 Cent’s manager] Chris Lighty when it happened was, “Since when does a manager get involved with a rap beef? Like, why would these guys feel it’s okay to have a problem with me?” He apologized, and was like, “These guys are out of control, and are their own men.” But I was like, “They aren't men if they’re picking on children.”
ON HIS FRIENDSHIP WITH CHRIS LIGHTY
When I started in the music business in 1991, Chris Lighty was managing Leaders of the New School and A Tribe Called Quest. I had started the “How Can I Be Down?” music conference with Peter Thomas, and Chris was one of the first guys that I pretty much was friends with in the music business. I always had respect for Chris Lighty, and I believe he had that same kind of mutual respect for me because we were all young in the business. We were all figuring it out at the same time.
My history with Chris Lighty goes way beyond anything that had to do with 50. He was a guy that I would go to his home and eat food with. I even knew his mother.
My history with Chris Lighty goes way beyond anything that had to do with 50. Chris Lighty was a guy that I would go to his home in New Jersey and eat food with. I even knew Chris Lighty's mother. Just to show you what kind of relationship we had in the 90s. There was never no tension between us until this whole situation had blown over.
ON CHRIS LIGHTY’S SUICIDE
Just from knowing Chris and understanding some of his background, I just never thought that [suicide] would be the way that he would have passed away. Maybe a car accident, something like that. I just never thought that he would pass away the way he did. Sometimes, we just never understand or know what another person is going through. We're just so disconnected in the music business, even though sometime it seems like it's one big family, but we don't even stop to ask each other how we're doing. We just always assume that just because a person is making money, because a person is holding business meetings that they got it all together, and sometime that's not the case. It really kind of shocked me, and it hurt me to see a guy like that who was so young to leave the earth so early.
We have a history of people who have been in the business that have committed suicide, so there's an underlying problem there.
I think a lot of times, we always just assume everybody is okay, especially when things are going alright. You have a brother like Shakir Stewart, who worked for Def Jam under L.A. Reid that committed suicide. He was a very good friend of mine. You had [Soul Train founder]Don Cornelius, who I've met several times and I looked up to as a pioneer in bringing rap music to the world—he committed suicide. Now we have a history of people who have been in the business that have committed suicide, so there's an underlying problem there. I think that we can't take for granted that everybody's just okay just because they're making money, just because they look like they're successful. There's always other things that’s going on in people's lives that we don't know.
ON PEOPLE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY TURNING THEIR BACKS ON HIM
I’ve been so turned off by the business that I have shut it down. People in the music business aren’t something I even think about. There are some guys who aren’t in touch with me, and there are some that ask me to be in touch with them. I just refuse, because I believe that the business is so phony, and there’s no fraternity there to where I believe that there’s people in the music business that should’ve stood up for me, but no one in the music business came through for Jimmy Rosemond like that. Because of that, I’ve seen that they’ve turned their back on me, and so, I turn my back on them. I have no loyalty to the music business. I don’t feel that it’s a business of loyalty, or where you can say that there are people in it who you can really call them your friend.
I had to look out for myself, instead of other people, because then I’ll end up like a Chris Lighty or a Don Cornelius, and I’m not letting that happen to me.
I’ve dedicated 15, 17 years of my life to the music business; standing up for guys who couldn’t speak for themselves—from Game to Puffy, to whoever it was. Whoever came to me, I stood up for them. Now who stands up for me? Who comes to me and says, “I got your back.” For some reason everybody feels like you’re okay or people look at Jimmy and they say, “Jimmy’s gonna be okay.” But the only reason that Jimmy is starting to be okay is because Jimmy had to manage himself. I had to look out for myself, instead of looking out for other people; and I refuse to look out for other people in the music business anymore. They can fend for themselves because then, I’ll end up like a Chris Lighty or a Don Cornelius, and I’m not letting that happen to me.
ON BEING AWAY FROM HIS CHILDREN
One of the hardest things about me being in a penitentiary—doing time and the hardship of doing time—is the psychological and emotional affect of me not being there. Not only for my son, who was 18 at the time [I was arrested] and is now 24, but I have two daughters, one that's 15 and one that's 6 years old. My youngest was pretty much just born when I got arrested.
My son had to live with the fact that he may have been the cause of me being in jail. I can only imagine the kind of trauma he went through dealing with that.
But, you know, one of the things that bothers me the most is that sometimes we don't look at the effect of what [being incarcerated] does to a family. Let me say one thing about my son: Up until they overturned my case, he had to live with the fact that he may have been the cause of me being in jail. Because if he never came and told me that these G-Unit clowns had assaulted him, maybe his father wouldn’t be in jail. He had to come to terms with that. So, one of the things that I'm so happy about wasn't just my case getting overturned, it's that he doesn't have to live no more thinking that I'm in jail and I'm doing my life sentence because of him.
I hope it stays that way because I can only imagine the kind of trauma he went through dealing with that so I'm happy in that regard. My other kids—I just need to get back out there to them so I can raise them. I think my son is at the age now that he's gonna figure it out, but I'm a little concerned about my daughters. What I need to do is make it back home to my family.
ON THE PROSPECT OF BEATING HIS CASE
I think this whole thing is going to unravel. I really believe that I’m going to walk out of here vindicated with my head up high. I believe that I will walk out of here with all of the truth being told, instead of a lot of the half-truths that’s out there about me.
The thing that I've always said and there's no doubt that I will always say it, even if I was talking to adolescents on Riker’s Island or I was talking to college graduates: Yes, I used to be in the streets. Yes, I used to be a so-called “thug” or whatever—and there's no doubt about that—but I changed my life.