Seen Acting in Concert

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, 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 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.”


Bottom Line

Any rapper who takes time to discern the nuanced relationship between Jimmy Carter and the white rural Southern voter should at least have a little something to say on the all-important subject of ass. Thus responded the hip-hop buying public to Bubba Sparxxx’s Deliverance in 2003, rejecting his mud-caked hayseed rootsifying in favor of crunk’s urban strip-club chic. OK, I fib a bit—of course they didn’t actually say “discern.” And most of ’em never actually heard Bubba’s album.

“Really don’t expect no forgiveness for Deliverance,” Sparxxx declares on
The Charm—proudly, yes, but that apologizing for a critical success suggests itself as an option says less about the New South than it does about the new economy. With no gray area left between blockbuster and flop, any sonic innovation that fails to register commercially faces charges of avant-garde willfulness from the faux populi. So Timbaland’s down to one tweaked funk track here, with the streamlined synth hooks of Organized Noize and Mr. Collipark elsewhere adding up to quality genre work from an artist with visionary potential. Oh yeah—and this time, there will be ass.

Of course, you’ve already heard noted posterior connoisseurs the Ying Yang Twins let loose their urgent cry of “bootybootybootybooty” on Bubba’s comeback hit. But little did you realize, as Sparxxx told, that “Ms. New Booty” is actually “about a woman who exudes confidence and does her thing with a swagger that’s unique to her and only her.” Damn if he doesn’t drawl it that way too, maintaining congeniality at his most gruff and lascivious. And if there’s less room for Bubba’s lyrics to shade in a social background and more call for first-person prerogatives, his perspective on the biz is more honest than most: “Lord, at least let me get enough to pay the rent again.”


Playing Trumps

Donald Trump knows the power of a name—his name. By plastering his moniker on casinos, hotels, and condos, Trump has made it a synonym for ultra-affluence. Even as his casinos lapse into bankruptcy, the Donald has parlayed his personality into a hit TV show and eight books. In August, he introduced a line of suits bearing his handle. So what does the icon who has sold it all try to sell next?

A glossy. With his name on it. “We’re going to bring to life Trump’s passions, his business pursuits, and his search for excellence when it comes to dining and travel,” says Michael Jacobson, editor and publisher of Trump World. “This magazine will feature the best of the best.”

In an effort to capitalize on the popularity of his hit TV show, Trump World will hit newsstands September 24—at a price of $5.99 a copy, with the cast of The Apprentice on the cover of the first edition. “Trump, just by his name, will be able to get through doors that a lot of the rest can’t,” says Dale Rim, editor of Millionaire and Billionaire magazines. “It’s always going to be impressive if Donald Trump calls up a media buyer and says, ‘I’d like you to advertise in my magazine.’ That’s a very powerful tool.”

But not everyone is sure that Trump’s appeal translates into the world of magazines.

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“I have not seen the magazine, but I’m not sure that it does,” says George Sansoucy, senior vice president and managing director of print and convergence for Initiative Media. “Case in point: Lifetime magazine. We’re not talking about a person, but we are talking about a broadcast brand.” Last week that magazine, a joint project of Hearst and Walt Disney, announced it was closing.

This version of Trump World will actually be a reincarnation. Jacobson says he originally conceived the idea in the fall of 2001, while a partner at Lockwood Publications. Originally, Jacobson was charged with creating a gaming magazine, but after 9-11, the funding dried up.

“I came up with the idea on a fluke,” says Jacobson. “I ended up going down to Atlantic City to Trump Marina, just to blow off some steam. I noticed that not only was there no Trump magazine in my room, there weren’t any magazines. Within a month I was presenting my idea to Donald to do a magazine branded with his name.”

Lockwood put out two issues of Trump World—one in November 2002 and one in May 2003. By then, Jacobson and Trump had become fast friends. “I was on his helicopter and he said, ‘You know this magazine should really be national,’ ” says Jacobson. “And that was a dream to me.”

Back at Lockwood, Jacobson’s colleagues weren’t as intrigued. So Jacobson purchased the rights to Trump World himself. Whereas before it was controlled-circulation, with a print run of 50,000, the new model will ship 150,000 copies to newsstands and have six issues its first year. Jacobson plans to cut a demographic swath as broad and absurd as the Donald’s own ego, targeting men and women between the ages of 21 and 55 who have an interest in the finer things.

“There’s the people at the Trump resorts, the people who’ve made it. They’re rich, living the Trump dream,” says Jacobson. “Then there’s a second group of young, 21-to-39-year-old Apprentice watchers. The upwardly mobile lawyer, doctor, stockbroker, secretary, wanting to live the fantasy. They’re going to be the ones buying at the newsstands.”

But some say Trump World is targeting two opposing markets. “I call those groups achievers and emulators,” says Rick Sedler, president of RMS Media Group and former publisher of The Robb Report. “They don’t mingle very well and it’s harder to appeal to both, because once an achiever realizes that an emulator is buying the product, they move away from it.”

Then there are the recent troubles that have beset personality-based publications in general. While Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine enjoys a paid circulation of over 2 million, Rosie—published by Gruner + Jahr USA and themed around entertainer Rosie O’Donnell—folded at the end of 2002, after a nasty dispute over the magazine’s direction. Subsequent court proceedings revealed that officials at Gruner + Jahr had inflated Rosie‘s circulation. Martha Stewart Living was also forced to grapple with the trial of its matronly muse.

“There’s always an embedded risk for any publication that’s being branded with a person,” says Sansoucy. “Because people are human.”

For his part, Jacobson is willing to put his money on the Donald. “He’s the human logo,” says Jacobson. “He’s a branding king, and the magazine will tie all of those branding opportunities into one.”

Hip-Hop’s CNN

The last interview Rick James offered did not go to one of the classic music outlets like Spin, Vibe, or Tracks. No, the Superfreak’s final public words were captured by Allhiphop (, the brainchild of Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur and “Grouchy” Greg Watkins. Allhiphop posted the interview on August 5, the day before James died. With the news of his death, traffic at the website doubled. “This was the grand slam,” Creekmur says. “Unfortunately, Rick died. I shed tears over it. One of the last things he said was, ‘When I come to New York, we’re gonna sit down and talk some more.’ ”

The site’s reputation had already been growing because of its daily “Alerts”—a hip-hop news brief sent to 450,000 subscribers. In the case of the James interview, Allhiphop captured the tragic. But more often the website offers the blanket absurdities of rapdom. In an an infamous Alert from September 2002, Beanie Sigel bragged about putting holsters in his new clothing line. “You know how you put your gun in your waistline and you gotta worry about it slipping?” Sigel told the website. “With these clothes, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s already in there.” is one of the few survivors from a rash of hip-hop sites that came online as the Internet bubble expanded. “I ain’t gonna lie—I really wanted to be a part of it,” Creekmur says. “At the time we were so broke, and you had big companies that weren’t leaving much advertising for us and we didn’t really have the traffic. At the end of the day what won people over was our consistency.”

That and keeping their overhead low. While most boom-era hip-hop sites (,, etc.) lived and died by their enormous budgets, Allhiphop kept watch over the purse strings. By 2002, it was turning a profit.

Creekmur and Watkins will overhaul Allhiphop this year. The site will be cleaner, but will still offer a mix of promotion and news of the lurid. “If you have an artist that you need to promote, this is a good service,” says Watkins. “However, if you fuck up and get arrested with weed on you, sorry, we gotta cover it.”