By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
As the Gameknown as Jayceon Taylor before he got famouswas chauffeured around town last fall, rap's new "It" guy could afford to go anywhere and do practically anything he wanted in one of the world's great cities. The one drawback was that he'd have to endure a constant, not-so-inconspicuous tail by a supposedly secret NYPD unit that rappers call the Hip-Hop Cops.
The Hip-Hop Cops are a poorly kept secret; the NYPD continues to deny its existence. "No such thing," spokesman Paul Browne tells the Voice.
The Game's arrest last November 16 after a traffic stop puts the lie to that, according to fresh details of the incidentand according to the NYPD detective who created the unit.
"Game is right in his assessment that the cops are following himthey are," says NYPD detective Derrick Parker, who founded the squad, formally known as the Rap Intelligence Unit, in the early 1990s, wrote a book about it (Notorious C.O.P.: The True Story of the NYPD Hip Hop Cop), and is now retired. "The reason being is, they don't want another rapper killed." Parker says there are now as many as 10 NYPD cops working full-time gathering intelligence and doing surveillance on rappers. No. 1 on their list, he says, is 50 Cent, followed by the Game. Rappers are not only being hounded but, in the Game's case, arrested on spur- ious charges.
At the time, the Game's bust was splashed in the media as simply another rapper pulling another boneheaded move: Police claimed that the Game flashed a badge, said he was an undercover cop, and ordered a livery driver to run red lights because he was late for a meeting.
The Manhattan district attorney's office vowed that it wouldn't consider dismissing the case. Last Thursday, 10 months later, it quietly did just that.
As the Game and his bodyguards sped off in their black SUV, the paparazzi who had swarmed all over him only minutes before in front of the courthouse suddenly sprang into action again. They got in the face of a tall black woman wearing sunglasses and clicked away. The woman's lawyer, Ivan Fisher, stopped and had a few words with the Game's attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, before escorting her inside the courthouse.
"That's Remy Ma," Lichtman said. The rapper has been charged with shooting her best friend in July outside a Manhattan nightclub after accusing the woman of stealing money from her purse. Lichtman added, "At least she supposedly shot someone."
The Game tells the Voice that the case was "preposterous" and was pursued "only 'cause I'm high-profile." Surveillance by the Hip-Hop Cops had become so ludicrous last year that the Game had made a game of it. And because the tails continue, he still does. Lichtman says the rapper and his entourage try to make the best of a bad situation. "So if they're eating in a restaurant, they'll go outside and give the police some food," says Lichtman. "They give them cigars. They constantly want autographs, for God knows whohopefully not for themselves. He obliges them. He figures, 'Either that or else I'm going to get hassled.' "
The arrest, however, doesn't amuse Lichtman, who calls it a reverse example of celebrity justice: The judge refused to excuse the Game, whose fiancée was going through a difficult pregnancy, from subsequent court proceedings, forcing him to fly in from California for routine status hearings. Until a few weeks ago, the prosecutor refused to budge from his demand that the Game plead guilty to a misdemeanor in exchange for time served: the four hours he was held during booking. (The D.A.'s office declines comment on the Game's arrest or the case's dismissal.)
"Why didn't they offer this in January?" says Lichtman. "We had to go through almost an entire year for this? If it was anybody else, they wouldn't have even been arrested."
Lost with the dismissal is the opportunity to question some of the cops, who would have been under oath at a trial for the first time, about the existence of the Hip-Hop Cops. That encounter will now have to wait for another rapper's arrest.
Derrick Parker has a bit more sympathy for the cops. Parker, who now has a company that specializes in nightclub, executive, and celebrity security, says he stays in close contact with the NYPD's Rap Intelligence Unit, which he tells the Voice has grown from just him back in the day to eight officers, a sergeant, and a lieutenantall full-time. Whether the Game is truly a thug or 50 Cent is as tough as his stare is secondary. Parker points out that both hang out with real gangstas and are both targets for young guns looking to make a name.
"On some level, you can't blame the police for saying, you know, 'Let me go out here and make sure nothing happens,' " says Parker. "Most rappers don't hang with choirboys."
But that wasn't the issue last November when the Game was busted in midtown. Few details of his arrest have been made public before now. The account based on the Game's statement, court records, and his lawyer's recollections goes as follows: