The hip hop genre has not exactly been known for having a squeaky clean, morally upright, unassailably wholesome image. We hear of rappers getting arrested for weapons charges or assault every now and then. A good number of hip hop lyrics tell of (and even glorify) guns, drugs, violence, misogynist behavior, and a hodge podge of anti-authority sentiments. And of course, the killings of high profile rap artists such as The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur have become landmark incidents that established the notoriety of hip hop.
Along with the progression of hip hop personalities getting embroiled in gangster-esque incidents came rumors that a task force has been formed by the New York Police Department focused specifically on the rap industry. Major newspapers reported that a team of NYPD detectives were assigned to monitor hip hop events, feuds, and even rap lyrics. Artists have complained that they were being subjected to police surveillance.
The NYPD has repeatedly denied the existence of such unit but talks of the hip hop cops are still far from dying down. The revelations of retired NYPD detective Derrick Parker that he was the one who started comprehensive investigations on the hip hop industry further fueled the controversy. Parker said that it was his duty to compile all information relating to hip hop and interview artists who were involved in criminal cases. He clarified though that it wasn’t as large as the purported full-blown task force that was reported in the media but was merely another scope of the Intelligence Division’s Gang Unit.
In 2004, it was reported that the a three-day hip hop training session was held and attended by police officers from New York, Miami, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. In the said seminar, six-inch binders containing information on rappers with criminal records were distributed to the attendees. A Miami police sergeant said the seminar involved training on what look for in rap lyrics, monitoring radio and TV stations, and surveying hip hop concerts.
To further compound the existence of a hip hop squad, another voluminous document on rapper profiles was made public. This time, it was a 500-page dossier containing rap artists’ mug shots, home addresses, license plate and social security numbers, criminal histories, arrest details, frequented locations, and known associates. The dossier, which bore the logo of the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, was published online and was also featured on the documentary Rap Sheet: Hip Hop and the Cops.
Not a few rappers and civil rights activists bemoaned these acts as racial profiling and unnecessary intrusion to privacy. Police refused to comment on the dossier but reasoned that familiarizing themselves with the hip hop industry was just a part of doing their job. They said that the unsolved murders of famous hip hop artists was reason enough to monitor this particular genre of the music industry. As Derrick Parker put it, they simply don’t want another rapper killed.
Some rap personalities place the blame on the rappers themselves for the supposed surveillance. DMC, considered as one of the pioneers of hip hop, pointed out the rappers’ self-aggrandized gangster image was one of the reasons police are tailing them. Wu-Tang Clan member Method Man also commented that rap songs which glorify violence and guns aren’t any help either.
On October 2007, rapper T.I. was arrested for illegal gun possession while the month before that, The Game was taken into custody for allegedly pretending to be an undercover cop. Last July, Remy Ma turned herself in to police after being involved in a shooting incident. While these episodes are not representative of the whole hip hop industry, police believe that these are more than enough to keep them watching.
About the Author:
Kristien Wilkinson is an online writer and contributor to http://www.hiphop.net
‘Chap-Hop History’ by Mr.B The Gentleman Rhymer
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