From the Freakonomics blog, an interview with Columbia professor of sociology and “Off The Books : The Underground Economy Of The Urban Poor” author Sudhir Venkatesh.

Q: Do you think the HBO series The Wire gives an accurate portrayal of gang life? It is clear from the show (if it is as real as it seems) that traditional policing strategies are very ineffective.

A: I am a huge fan of The Wire. I actually watched Season Two with a group of high ranking gang leaders/drug dealers in Chicago, who desperately wished that the series producers would make a separate show about Chicago! Everyone in the room agreed that the writers did well to show the nuances in the underground economy.

Q: A lot of rappers, particularly Jay-Z and 50 Cent, claim to have been successful crack dealers. Any thoughts on this? Were they just low-level dealers barely making a profit, or did they really have something to pay for their future studio time? Did any of the gang members you knew claim to be on the dealer-to-rapper fast track program?

A: In all my years of studying gangs, I have met only a handful of individuals who have actually participated in the dealer-to-rapper fast track program. Alas, they end up going to jail before they get successful, and most of the ones I™ve seen can™t sing worth a lick. I™m deeply skeptical about rappers who proclaim experience with drug sales. Sure, there are a few exceptions, but for the most part I would be very careful about the claims that are made in songs. Many rappers are highly trained musicians who have spent little time on the streets, as it were ” think of Mos Def.

While I would reccomend checking out the entire article, sadly for us, Venkatesh has no insights as to whether or not newly acquired Boston Celtic Scott Pollard (above) is really a druggie or just another cred-grabbing phony baloney.