In a tv show there is this conversation about drug dealing

The dialogues are:

A: I'm talking about four bricks at a time 50 a pop.

B: What's my take?

A: We smack them with a five-stack tax for the back end, that's 20 grand total.

I could not comprehend this part totally.

Specially these phrases are really confusing:

50 a pop

smack them with a five-stack tax

for the back end

Comprehensive explanation will be highly appreciated.

  • ...well, there is such a thing as "tax stacking". But looking at the numbers in the cited example, it might be that "a five-stack tax" simply means "we'll [sur]charge them five grand ($5000) per brick (to cover your cut)". Where "a brick" is usually a kilogram of some controlled substance. Commented May 13, 2022 at 16:33
  • @FumbleFingers @Lambie Both of your answers helped me to comprehend the whole ground breaking deal fully. I learned a lot of new thing today. However, I am a bit confused here. Which answer I should take since both of you gave me legitimate answers. I can not choose now..
    – Ghost
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 17:13
  • What tv show are you quoting?
    – James K
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 18:56

2 Answers 2


50 a pop - we'll charge them $50,000 per "brick" (kilogram)

smack them with a five-stack tax - plus an extra $5,000 per kilo to cover "incidental costs arising"
(see What is the origin of "stack" meaning $1000? as asked on ELU over a decade ago.)

for the back end - whatever you do to justify getting a cut (you are the "incidental costs")

Note that to some extent this is "drug dealer cant" (context-specific slang at least partly intended to make their conversations unintelligible to outsiders). So be careful about adopting such usages yourself (or the authorities may think you're a drug dealer too! :)

I don't have access to the full context, but it's at least possible B works for the port authorities where the drugs are being brought in. And he's to be paid $20,000 to "look the other way" when the relevant cargo ship unloads. The people who are actually buying the stuff just get told there's an unexpected extra payment "for the back end" (potentially unforeseen costs arising near completion of the trade).

  • Thank you very much for your answer. However, I still have not understood what does this phrase "for the back end" want to convey.. Also, 20 grand total. How much is 20 grand total? It is still baffling.
    – Ghost
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 17:00
  • If I rephrase the last sentence then it sounds like: We will charge them with 5,000 dollars to get a handsome profit. Please correct me if I am wrong.
    – Ghost
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 17:02
  • 1
    You'll never be much good at drug-running if you can't understand this! :) 20 grand total is four times the $5,000 per brick that we're going to add to the customer's bill on your account (to pay for you). for the back end is non-specific "things arising later". Commented May 13, 2022 at 17:03
  • 1
    No, you haven't got it. it's We will charge them 5,000 dollars more than they were originally told the price would be per kilo ("we" being A and his partners,; that extra money is for B - who isn't part of the main gang). And the reason for that extra charge is entirely to pay B. Obviously there is a "handsome profit" involved here (drug-running is highly profitable unless & until you get caught), but nothing that either A or B says is directly connected to "profit". Commented May 13, 2022 at 17:05
  • Sorry for being Noob. However, I don't want to do drug running. I am really comfortable with my current life. Especially, you amazing people are constantly enlightening us with your wisdom. Thus, elimination the necessity of being bricks.
    – Ghost
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 17:10

So, "50 a pop (a pop=each) for four bricks".

50 here is $50,000 dollars [or pounds?] Depends on the currency.

That is one stack of 4 bricks, like when you put one brick on top of another.

Five stacks would equal $50,000 x 5 or $250,000. Here, tax is not literal. He is just calling it that. The normal word here would be a fee. Only these are "bad guys" so they say what they like. You charge someone a fee as a percentage. The $20,000 is 8% of @250,00.

So, the funny thing is that that 8% is close to the level of taxes on sales in some U.S. states.

He is saying five stacks, each with four bricks, is going to be charged a "tax" by him. I'm not great at math, but I think I got that right.

Expressions: to stack something, to make a stack a pop= $2,00 a pop- A pop - each smack= to hit, is the more usual slang, that is to charge an amount

"We smack them with a tax or we hit them with a tax."

Often, in everyday American English, you hear: The restaurant was really expensive. They smacked us with a $200,00 bill. That kind of thing.

stacks of drugs

From: istockphoto.com

Those are stacks of bricks, but more than stacks of four.

  • You may know more than me about US drug-running terminology, but so far as I can see, the deal being discussed only involves 4 kilos (bricks) in total. And that five-stack tax makes perfect sense to me if I understand B as "Mr 10%" (he gets an extra 10% = $5,000 on top of the "base" price of $50,000 already agreed with the buyers). So B gets $20,000 in total from a 4-kilo deal (now total price $55,000, because B needs to be cut in on the deal). Your idea of "stacks of bricks" (20 bricks?) simply doesn't stack up for me! :) Commented May 13, 2022 at 17:21
  • From ELU: What is the origin of "stack" meaning $1000? Commented May 13, 2022 at 17:23
  • The text is clear. Each stack contains 4 bricks. There are five stacks.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 17:42
  • There are five "thousands"? You're still convinced "stack" here is some kind of literal reference, ignoring the slang meaning from my previous comment? Commented May 14, 2022 at 11:31
  • @FumbleFingers If the deal only involved four kilos, the guy wouldn't have said "a pop". The fact he does say a pop, implies more than just four kilos.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 14, 2022 at 16:34

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