Miami's Black Binder of Hip Hop Artist     

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3/9/2004 8:07:52 AM
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Miami's Black Binder of Hip Hop Artist
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Miami and Miami Beach police are secretly watching and keeping dossiers on hip-hop celebrities like P. Diddy and DMX and their entourages when they come to South Florida, a move police say is to protect the stars and the public.

Officers say they have photographed rappers as they arrived at Miami International Airport. They stake out hotels, nightclubs and video shoots. They consult a six-inch-thick black binder of every rapper and member of his or her group with an arrest record in the state of New York. The binder begins with a photo and rap sheet of Grammy-nominated rapper 50 Cent. It ends with Ja Rule. Both men are embroiled in one of the most bitter feuds in the hip-hop industry, one that Eminem, 50 Cent's producer, has warned in the song Bully could lead to bloodshed.

The policing effort of top entertainers -- which hip-hop experts criticize as unnecessary stereotyping -- was created, police say, to protect the public and musical celebrities who have chosen to make South Florida their destination to live and party.

''We have to keep an eye on these rivalries,'' said Assistant Miami Beach Police Chief Charles Press. ``The last thing we need in this city is violence.''

Government agencies keeping tabs on musicians is not new. The Nixon administration investigated former Beatle John Lennon in the 1970s and tried to have him deported. The band Body Count led by rapper Ice-T got the attention of police nationally in the early 1990s with the song Cop Killer. But those cases involved individual artists or groups, not monitoring across a musical genre.

''There's been no shortage of rock stars and other musicians'' scrutinized by police, said Anthony DeCurtis, contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine. ``But there has never been anything like this.''

Several music executives and legal scholars say the intelligence-gathering highlights the misunderstanding between the police and a $10-billion industry. The police, they contend, have used the slayings of high-profile artists like Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G. and Run DMC's Jam Master Jay, to justify tracking many in the industry.

''Some people see gangs and hip-hop artists as being synonymous,'' said Benjamin Chavis, president and chief executive officer of The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, a government-watchdog and voter-registration group. ``That's a mistake. The recording industry is a legitimate American enterprise, not a gang.''

Said attorney Bruce Rogow: ''This kind of conduct shows insensitivity to constitutional limitations. It also implicates racial stereotyping.'' Rogow successfully represented 2 Live Crew when the rap group was prosecuted for obscenity in the early '90s.

PART OF POLICE WORK

Press says it's good police work that has nothing to do with stereotyping a culture or musical genre: ``What would law enforcement be if we closed our eyes. Our job is to know as much about things that could hurt innocent people.''

Jeff Peel, director of Miami-Dade's Office of Film and Entertainment, said he's worried about a policy that could prompt hip-hop artists to stay away. South Florida is a choice spot for stars to live, celebrate and film music videos, an enterprise that pumps millions of dollars into the local economy.

''If something's going to dissuade them from coming, that would not be good news for us,'' Peel said.

Press and other officers say they welcome the musicians, but some rappers and their groups have had brushes with the law, police said. Miami Detective Peter Rosario said the practice of photographing rappers with their entourages shows who's in their circle.

''A lot if not most rappers belong to some sort of gang,'' Miami police Sgt. Rafael Tapanes said. ``We keep track of their arrests and associates.''

Dozens of rappers are tracked in the black binder, from minor artists like Black Rob to major figures like Sean ''P. Diddy'' Co

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