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AR-Ab, Philly hip-hop vet, charged with heading drug ring

A grand jury had accused the North Philly rapper of using two Philadelphia homes as bases to distribute heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.

AR-Ab is a North Philly rapper accused of heading a drug-distribution ring with bases of operation in Philadelphia.
AR-Ab is a North Philly rapper accused of heading a drug-distribution ring with bases of operation in Philadelphia.Read moreCourtesy of @darklo @poerilla #OBHRECORDS

North Philly rapper AR-Ab is in custody on federal drug charges, accused of heading a drug-distribution ring with bases of operation in Philadelphia and supplies coming from Los Angeles.

A grand jury indictment released earlier this month accused the rapper, whose real name is Abdul West, and eight other men of possession with intent to distribute heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, and related offenses.

The indictment charges AR-Ab with using two properties in North Philadelphia as bases for the alleged drug operation. The indictment also says that members of the alleged drug ring rented waterfront apartments near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Penn's Landing under fake names to prevent investigation into their backgrounds and detection by law enforcement.

In a news release, the U.S. Attorney's Office said law enforcement found 62 grams of crack, 229 grams of heroin, and 48 grams of methamphetamine along with cash in one of AR-Ab's houses in 2017. In another probe, officers found 2,671 grams of methamphetamines and 10,004 grams of cocaine at one of the riverfront apartments this past May.

Aside from AR-Ab, Jameel Hickson, Dontez Stewart, Jamaal Blanding, Richard Chase Hoover, Amir Boyer, Hans Gadson, Daryl Baker, and Dennis Harmon were also indicted. Authorities did not disclose where they live.

AR-Ab has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Maggie Grasso, had no comment Saturday. An Instagram post on the rapper's account Friday shared his prison mailing address at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia. "FREE THE MEN!!" read the caption. Rapper Dark Lo, also a member of Original Block Hustlaz, reposted the message with this note: "To all true fans and supporters @ar_ab_32 said he appreciate all the bulletproof luv."

Lo said his friend is innocent.

"Because he knows people into different things, they're trying to pin it on him, like 'you're the leader,' " said Lo. "They've just had it out for Ab because he's in entertainment."

AR-Ab has been a fixture in the Philly hip-hop scene for years, regularly releasing viral freestyles. He's won praise from rap heavyweights like Drake and Birdman, and reportedly discussed signing with Birdman's Cash Money label. Though the emcee has yet to release a major-label album, he has consistently put out mixtapes, sharing plans this month for future collaborations with Lo and Beanie Sigel.

"The charges alleged in the superseding indictment are extremely serious, and if convicted, these defendants are facing major jail time," U.S. Attorney William McSwain said in the news release. "The investigation and prosecution of drug trafficking organizations remains a high priority of this Office and the Department of Justice.  We are committed to doing everything we can to keep our streets safe and stop the flow of these deadly drugs into our communities."

Fans expressed disappointment on social media and questions over whether the rapper had been too candid in interviews. "Sad day in hip hop," typed one Twitter user, "AR-Ab will be missed in the game if he got to do a long stint off those charges."