B-Boys in blue:
November 3, 2002 3:27 AM   Subscribe

B-Boys in blue: the thought that there is a team of hip-hop detectives in the NYPD whose day to day job is to listen to hip-hop lyrics, go out to clubs, and "monitor whose compact disc sales are climbing," among other things, is just nuts. so, to get this straight, they get paid to do at work what a lot of the rest of us do when they should be doing work. I can't imagine they're any more productive than we are. Yeah, this is funny, but c'mon guys - do some real police work already.
posted by moth (11 comments total)
I suppose you actually know a lot about what police officers actually do on the job. And you seem so well-informed on how stupid investigations are in general, maybe you'd like to cast a few pearls of wisdom to the masses:

What exactly should the policemen be doing, if not police work? Do tell.

I can't imagine they're any more productive than we are.

I smell a low sense of self esteem. You might hold yourself to a lower standard, but you are not only making a huge mistake in assuming that the world is filled with underachievers, but also doing a great disservice to yourself by settling, rather than striving.
posted by hama7 at 3:47 AM on November 3, 2002

In the Jam Master Jay case it's probably good solid police work but the Priority Targeting Section sounds similar to the slightly dodgy FBI department Nick Broomfield talks about in a Village Voice interview in relation to his Biggie and Tupac doco:

You reported that the FBI had been surveilling both rappers at the time of their murders. Did that surprise you?
That program started with J. Edgar Hoover and the Black Panthers. It’s been around, but it surprised me that Biggie and Tupac had been under surveillance for so long—for months, particularly in Biggie’s case. He wasn’t considered a political person, but he and Tupac and rappers in general were regarded by the FBI as focal points of potential political unrest.

posted by meech at 4:51 AM on November 3, 2002

yo. the police monitor loan sharking, protection rackets, drug dealing, prostitution and other organized crime, why should the hip-hop 'industry' be any different? word up. a thug is a thug is a pop star, homes.
posted by quonsar at 5:24 AM on November 3, 2002

The article's spin on this subject is quite different from the spin put on it by moth, which, I have to confess, reminds me of the I-don't-understand-it-so-it's-a-waste-of-taxpayer's-money sentiment you sometimes find among elderly men in my country. Enough rappers have been shot that I was quite willing to take the Times's "rap world violence" explanation at face value; kudos to meech for providing some background. Can anyone else add some more context to this story?
posted by mcwetboy at 5:26 AM on November 3, 2002

What a bunch of reactionaries you guys sound like. I was trying to be a bit satirical, but that clearly didn't come across... my fault. But either way, last I checked, the NYPD wasn't so effective on solving murders, in the hip-hop industry or anywhere else. It still strikes me as a riot that any of them would think they'll get leads by listening to rap lyrics; if it's true, it's absurd.

These policemen probably don't do this all day long -- it's more likely that they are detectives who do actual work on real crimes but who have familiarity with the music industry from their work, as is somewhat implied in one small sentence of the article. But this (to me) sketchy, tone-deaf NY Times article makes them sound like a bunch of time-wasting detectives spending their time studying hip-hop when there are all kinds of unsolved murders on the books, and to me, almost sounded like it could have come from The Onion. Just one funny photo next to the article would have done it.
posted by moth at 9:38 AM on November 3, 2002

ugh, and before everyone jumps all over that, too, yes, i know murders are at an amazing low in NYC. The police have finally been able to turn attention to cold case files and closed hundreds of them, and just recently announced they'd busted a drug ring that helped them close several unsolved murders. All that sais, the criticism still stands: this is a silly article.
posted by moth at 9:52 AM on November 3, 2002

If it's a silly article, why did you bother with it? Just curious.
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:37 PM on November 3, 2002

I don't think it's silly at all. In fact, I'm much happier with a police force that has detectives who have some familiarity with the world they're investigating, as opposed to movie-inspired cliches that invariably have Archie Bunker cops mixing it up with pool-playing, spliff-lipping brothers. That they keep up with the business is a given, but it isn't by any means shown to be a 40-hour-a-week gig for them. If we were talking about somebody keeping track of the mob ties of 1950s crooners, would we be deriding them for knowing who was in with whom, going to the concerts to see who showed up, and trying to track feuds in Italian-language newspapers?

And in any case, this is less a standalone article, than it is a local-angle sidebar to In Rap Industry, Rivalries as Marketing Tool -- a three-writer article that's much more detailed.

meech: Broomfield is -- given his research -- probably deliberately muddying the waters. (In fact, many reviewers say he's explicitly trying to blame the FBI for one or both of the murders.) There's no doubt that under Hoover, the FBI's COINTELPRO group targeted the Black Panthers -- but given the culture of crime that permeated Death Row Records, is it that shocking that the FBI would be investigating, as they said, "money laundering, drug trafficking, and racketeering"? (They also seem to have routinely investigated the producers of songs such as "Fuck the Police" and "Cop Killer". My, my, what a surprise.) There also seems to have been a massive investigation of a bizarre alleged protection scheme involving the JDL. In any event, much of Broomfield's information comes from rogue cops and others who have axes to grind.
posted by dhartung at 12:53 PM on November 3, 2002

Interesting that the JDL/Eazy-E case just came up in the news again yesterday.

this (to me) sketchy, tone-deaf NY Times article makes them sound like a bunch of time-wasting detectives

I didn't get that at all from the article, moth, which provides enough info to make a pretty good case for this kind of unit. Your spin seemed really off. And thanks, dhartung, for pointing out the longer article. That JDL/Eazy-E connection sure is bizarre, though. Why on earth would the JDL "offer to provide bodyguards to Eazy-E when Knight allegedly threatened him in the early 1990s", if we accept that it wasn't an extortion scheme?
posted by mediareport at 3:15 PM on November 3, 2002

Ah, this explains it; some say Suge Knight threatened to kill Jerry Heller, the Jewish businessman who co-founded Ruthless with Eazy:

Dre left [NWA] to form Death Row Records with Suge Knight in early 1992. According to legend, Knight threatened to kill NWA manager Jerry Heller if he refused to let Dre out of his contract. Over the next few years, Dre and Eazy engaged in a highly-publicized feud, which included both of the rappers attacking each other on their respective solo albums.

I guess I can see why the JDL might have gotten involved, especially after Ice Cube dissed Heller in No Vaseline as he left the group - "you let a Jew break up my crew" and all that. Lord knows what connections there really are here.
posted by mediareport at 5:49 PM on November 3, 2002

"Cop Killer," by Ice T's Body Count, wasn't a rap song, really. It was a thrash metal record. You don't have to be a fan or police intelligence expert to know. There were multiple opportunities to learn this on VH-1 during the past decade or so, or to soak in when you have VH-1 on for reasons you can't quite remember, much less explain.
posted by raysmj at 11:42 PM on November 3, 2002

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