The Hiphop Cop

A Tale of NYPD's Rap Intelligence Unit

Despite any legitimate intentions behind Parker's initiative, Parker's critics are opposed to the Hiphop squad for many reasons. Russell Simmons, Hiphop music and fashion titan, thinks that there are far more serious concerns than rap music stars with which the NYPD needs to contend. "They should be following around all these drug dealers that are real obvious," he says. He points out that despite these intelligence units, Tupac, Biggie, and Jam Master Jay's (JMJ) murders remain unsolved. "That whole thing is ridiculous," says Simmons. "We want our celebrities to be protected, but what about their communities that are not protected? Jam Master Jay's mural is surrounded by a whole lot of other dead people. Who killed those people?"

Parker says that if given total control of the JMJ case, he would solve it. "All I would ask them to do would be to supply me with the following [unnamed specifics] and I would have the case solved, and you can quote me on that," says Parker. "I know the case that well."

Rosa Clemente, a longtime community activist and co-convener of June's upcoming Hiphop political summit in Newark, has concerns over the legality of the surveillance. "It is illegal for them to profile and that's what they're doing. It's a method of profiling— whether it's racial, economic, or a record label," she says. "This goes back to counter-insurgency within our communities."

Derrick Parker
photo: Piotr Sikora
Derrick Parker

Not everyone reacts to the existence of this unit in a totally negative manner. Tracy Cloherty, vice president for programming at radio station Hot 97, whose concert events were named as one of Parker's specific venues and whose proximity to rappers makes her a potential surveillance target, isn't disturbed by this prospect. [The author was also a station employee from 1999 to 2002.] "I don't think about it," says Cloherty. "I'm not doing anything illegal, so it's of no concern to me."

Parker says he was simply doing his job to the best of his ability. "Shame on me if I didn't know what was going on out here and I allowed somebody to get hurt and I could've prevented it," says Parker. "Shame on me if I had a job to do and I didn't know what was going on in my own backyard."

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