Straight Outta Compton: Interview with Judge Joe Brown [classic article]

As first seen on

Before he was Judge Joe Brown, he was a kid on the mean streets of Crenshaw in South Central L.A. He dug ditches to pay his way through UCLA and went on to grab honors at UCLA’s law school, then moved to Memphis, where he became that city’s first black prosecutor. In 1990, he was elected to a judgeship on the State Criminal Court and is now the only one of the five “real people, real cases” television judges out there (six, if you count the Playboy Channel’s Julie Strain) who currently sits on the bench. He also reopened the Martin Luther King Jr., assassination case against James Earl Ray Jr.

We talked to his honor about his finances.

Bankrate: Any investment successes or failures you care to share?

Judge Brown: Yes! About a year-and-a-half after Ronald Reagan got elected. I was a youngster, 30-ish. I didn’t have much invested, but what I did have… I lost everything. I was like everyone else then, except for “The Great Communicator’s” friends and favorite people.

Judge Joe Brownisms:
“Ma’am, don’t weep and moan and then come back and call it a loan!”
“I got out of South Central Los Angeles and saw many of my friend shot and dead!”
“Will you get this fool out of my presence? Dismissed!”
“You are nothing but a low down lousy little twerp!”
“This isn’t a lawsuit, this is something out of a daytime soap opera!”
“You’re pitiful! You are absolutely pitiful!”
“Both of you have nauseated the court by what you had to say here today!”
“Don’t jive talk that mess to me!”
“That don’t make a bit of dog sense!”
“You have to pay the cost to be the boss!”
“This is absolutely disgustingly ridiculous!”
“Stop this damnable foolishness!”

What are you doing with your money now?

I am speculating in the music industry. I am behind Judgment Day Records and Toxic Waste Studios here in Memphis. We do everything: country-western, rap, you name it. We can record and turn around tracks within 48 hours. You see, in the industry, most of the people in charge aren’t musicians. So the music, it all sounds alike. Also, personal differences prevent new talent from making it. You could have a new Whitney Houston audition for you, but if you don’t hit it off personally, if you have a thing against her, that’s it. There’s a need for a new Motown or Colonel Parker, to put new music out there. For people who want to make recording arrangements, the contact is Kyle at (901)458-1000.

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Are you a musician yourself?

No! But I can dance. I tried a little with the trumpet, but it slapped me and I had to issue a cease and desist order to make it stop.

What other kinds of investments do you have?

I have some mutual funds.

Do you make your own investments or do you have advisers?

I have from 3 to 5 advisers. I do the music myself, though. Actually, two or three of my advisers have invested in the studio.

Do you spend any of your money for fun?

I scuba. I ride horses, but don’t own any because I don’t have time to care for them. I love dogs, but don’t own any of them either, because I don’t have time to care for them. I love bicycling — I own 7 or 8 bikes, all kinds. I hunt. I will be taking a trip to southeast Africa on safari. I want to go there to hunt the Cape buffalo. It’s said to be the hardest animal to hunt, because they have an attitude. It takes 10 to 15 bullets to get them, and they usually are running to get to you and hunt you before you can hunt them. I usually don’t hunt to mount the animals. I will hunt something interesting to put in the meat locker or to photograph. I hunt everything.

Did you always know that you’d be financially successful?

No. In law school, I would make canned corned beef hash with Le Sueur peas.

I think we’ve all been there. That doesn’t sound half-bad, though, all fried up…

Oh no, I made it in a Teflon pan — I didn’t have to have anything to fry it in. I lived in abject privation.

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