Growing up as part of a poor family in New York City's Harlem, Nicky Barnes aspires to wealth and power. In the early 1970s, as drug use becomes increasingly popular, Barnes devises a plan to obtain the lifestyle he has always wanted. With help from the mob, Barnes establishes himself as a successful drug dealer and becomes tremendously wealthy. Barnes's extravagant lifestyle, however, proves to be his undoing, as he unwittingly draws the attention of the FBI.
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