There have been stories about the NYPD’s Hip-Hop Cops, most recently Sean Gardiner’s “The Game’s Bad Rap” in last week’s issue. But who has seen these cops, except for the rappers they’ve tailed?
It was a rare treat when members of the phantom unit materialized outside the West Village club S.O.B.’s on September 18. After a concert thrown by AllHipHop.com, two men in their thirties accosted an up-and-coming rapper and told him to come with them. When he resisted, he says, the men—one white, one black—flashed badges and identified themselves as members of the “hip-hop police.” They interrogated the rapper outside the venue. “It really bugged me out,” says the rapper, who requested anonymity. “There was no possible way [they] could know certain details unless they were in the VIP section.” When the rapper began to talk back, he says, the undercover Hip-Hop Cops advised his manager to quickly put him in a cab. The manager complied. When the rapper returned home, he adds, he noticed a black car with tinted windows outside his apartment.
The anonymous rapper wasn’t the only person who thought something was fishy at the Hudson Street club during AllHipHop Week. “I noticed one white guy posted in the spot the whole time that was just kind of giving me a bad vibe,” recalls Arthur Pitt, a publicist with Rostrum/Warner Bros. Records, who was there to see his artist Wiz Khalifa perform. “He looked like he was dressed to fit in, but he wasn’t fitting in. He was posted in the same spot the whole time. He didn’t look like an A&R, ’cause I know most of the A&Rs. I don’t know why he was there.”
One possible reason for the police presence might have been the eleventh-hour addition of Remy Smith to the concert lineup. Also known as Remy Ma, the Bronx-based female rapper is charged with shooting her best friend this summer outside Manhattan’s Pizza Bar. (She crossed paths earlier in September with the Game during his court appearance after he was hassled by the Hip-Hop Cops, as the
Voice‘s Gardiner noted in his story.)
“We didn’t announce Remy to anybody,” says AllHipHop.com founder Chuck Creekmur. “So if the officers were there for Remy, that means they followed her to S.O.B.’s.”
This makes sense, according to retired NYPD detective Derrick Parker, who founded the unit and later wrote a book, The Notorious C.O.P., that outed it. Parker says that before any major hip-hop event, the Hip-Hop Cops devise a game plan. “They had to do it for 50’s [recent] five-borough tour,” recalls Parker. “They were doing the surveillance and pre-op plan.”
All Remy Ma’s former lawyer Scott Leemon will say is that he knows “they are around. They go to most of the events, and they are there.”
At the AllHipHop Week festivities, which ran from September 15 to 21, it seems that the Hip-Hop Cops skipped the panels and the art and fashion shows but made it to the event’s three concerts.
Creekmur, who says he was unaware of the incident outside of S.O.B.’s, notes that, for the most part, the cops didn’t disrupt the events, which were violence-free. “We recognize they have a job to do,” he says. But, he adds, “I don’t support shadowing, profiling, or discrimination against a whole subculture.”
As usual, the NYPD remains mum about the unit. Police spokeswoman Marilyn Galindo didn’t return the Voice‘s calls attempting to confirm the identity of one of its members—an ID made through Parker and one other source. The detective in question also didn’t respond to repeated calls and e-mails. In last week’s cover story on the Game’s troubles, the NYPD’s lead mouthpiece, Paul Browne, continued to deny the very existence of the Hip-Hop Cops.
But Leemon—who, as one of the industry’s go-to lawyers, has had multiple dealings with the squad—is unequivocal. “They absolutely exist,” he says. “They are part of a federal task force. They are officially part of the Gang Intelligence Unit, and I’ve dealt with them on many occasions.”
How effective the Hip-Hop Cops are is another matter. They wound up picking the wrong night to be at S.O.B.’s. The night following that September 18 concert, the venue hosted an event that turned out to be action-packed. In an event sponsored by Hot 97, Havoc, of the G-Unit-affiliated group Mobb Deep, hosted a release party for his solo debut. But the show ended before the headliners took the stage. During a guest appearance by Saigon, an ex-con signed to Atlantic, a fight broke out between him and Mobb Deep. Though Saigon was heavily outnumbered, he managed to hit Havoc’s partner Prodigy with two solid blows to the head, before hiding behind a bodyguard and making a hasty retreat out onto Hudson Street.
The fight scenes, widely distributed on YouTube, are notable for their absolute mayhem, which irks the manager of the anonymous rapper who was hassled the previous evening (and who also performed at the Hot 97 event). “There wasn’t any plainclothes cops that stepped in when that fight happened,” says the manager, who vows to return to the venue yet again with his artist, despite the previous night’s hassle. “It wasn’t like it was some hood-ass club where they weren’t searching people and making them go through metal detectors,” he says. “It was S.O.B.’s. It usually doesn’t get too out of control.”