Rap COINTELPRO XII – The “War On Drugs” Meets The Hip-Hop Economy

Cedric Muhammad

Cedric Muhammad

In this month’s Black Electorate Insider Newsletter we are featuring a unique snapshot of the Hip-Hop economy from the standpoint of supply and demand; the five sources of capital (markets, inheritance, savings, government and crime); and RapCOINTELPRO. It is a unique analysis that explains why the seemingly unrelated events of the recent raids on both the Murder Inc. and ‘Tha Row record labels; the meteoric mixtape rise of 50Cent; the resignation from Sony Music of Tommy Mottola; and the unprecedented purchase of Armadale Vodka by Roc-A-Fella Records executives, from the macro standpoint, are all part of one larger picture. To learn how you can become an annual subscriber to the newsletter please visit:


The always interesting Chicago Tribune contributer and In These Times Editor, Salim Muwakkil has written a very enlightening article on the overall impact of Hip-Hop culture in and on the larger American society and its power centers. It is a good read for anyone interested in learning who may be threatened by the various forms of power and influence that Hip-Hop has generated.

I thought of Mr. Muwakkil’s article over the past few days in light of the recent raid by the FBI and New York Street Task Force units of Murder Inc.’s offices, which lie within the same building that houses Universal Music and a host of other Hip-Hop record labels and multi-national corporations at 825 Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. Irv Gotti is the head of Murder Inc.

A New York Times article from Jan. 5, 2003 had the following passage:

Kenneth McGriff

Kenneth McGriff

“The drug dealer, Kenneth McGriff, was known on the streets of Queens as Supreme, and headed a murderous gang called the Supreme Team, which held sway over the crack trade in southeast Queens in the 1980’s. Mr. McGriff was arrested in 1988 and convicted on federal narcotics conspiracy charges, and served 10 years in prison.

In the raid early Friday morning, which was first reported in yesterday’s editions of The Los Angeles Times, federal agents and police detectives, acting on a search warrant, confiscated computers and documents from Murder Inc.’s offices at 825 Eighth Avenue, the officials said.

Prosecutors in the office of the United States attorney in Brooklyn, Roslynn R. Mauskopf, which is overseeing the investigation, would not comment on the search or the investigation.

But several officials said the police and federal agents were investigating whether Mr. Gotti’s music career was fueled with money from Mr. McGriff’s drug trafficking. “We’re still trying to put them together,” one official said. “That’s the main question we’re asking: did McGriff fund Gotti?”

Of course, under the law, Irv Gotti and Mr. McGriff are innocent until proven guilty. But in the court of public opinion, and in the eyes of the FBI, ATF, New York Police Department they are largely anything but that.

Suge Knight

Suge Knight

Here is another interesting excerpt from an article about the raid that took place, two months ago, at the offices of ‘Tha Row records, run by Suge Knight. Of Mr. Knight, a CNN.com article on November 15, 2002 states: “He has been the target of numerous state and federal investigations into allegations of drug trafficking and money laundering, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office. No charges were filed in those cases, sources said.”

Again, Mr. Knight is innocent until proven otherwise. But is he really innocent in the eyes of the Los Angeles Police Department and “state and federal investigators?”

What is this all about? What is behind these recent raids of multi-million dollar establishments, both of which have business relationships with multinational corporations that many researchers say were funded by illegal funds? The music industry is said to be rife with nefarious connections. For years, rumors have swirled around certain relationships to figures maintained by Tommy Mottola. Yet, to the best of our knowledge Sony Music hasn’t been raided by the FBI, NYPD or LAPD in an effort to identify sources of funding, or perhaps money laundering that involves music companies through international banks. Why?

Jam Master Jay

Jam Master Jay

When Jam Master Jay was murdered some interesting innuendo was dropped that the murder was somehow “industry-related.” NYPD officers who were investigating the murder, when interviewing industry figures, openly pursued this supposedly “industry-related” angle. They particularly focused on a few individuals in particular, even informing several artists that they were targets of violence and murder plots. The New York Police Department was visiting record labels and interviewing artists and executives about the JMJ case, while “revealing” information to these same individuals that their lives were in danger. Numerous industry figures took a variety of dramatic security precautions as a result. What type of atmosphere did this mixture of slander, innuendo, rumors and half-truths create in the Hip-Hop industry, when circulated by law-enforcement? Was the intent more than to just solve a murder?

As we have written before in this now over 10-part series and as the Honorable Minister Farrakhan has been stating openly, in a powerful way, since 1989, the United States Government has planned (and is now executing) a war on youth and street organizations under the guise of a war on drugs. The target of the war is really an entire people, with special emphasis on a few individuals. The larger focus of this war is starting to become apparent in light of President Bush’s War on Terrorism. The war on drugs and the war on terrorism have already been merged, yet the vast majority of people don’t see it yet. This, even with commercials paid for by the government that have been running since last year’s Super Bowl that openly state that people who buy drugs are supporting terrorists.

On a radio interview conducted by Davey D. last fall, I openly, and in more detail, explained how all of this would find its nexus, among Black, Latino and Arab young men, in several cities in the United States Of America. Street organizations, Hip-Hop and the religion of Islam would all be tied together. The Racketeering In Corrupt Organization Act (RICO); the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Patriot Act will be involved. The fulfillment and desire of President Bush for a domestic spying agency will be involved.

You can get a microcosm of most of this in looking at how KillArmy and the 5% Nation Of Islam was linked to the sniper shootings. We wrote about this in Part XI of this series, Hip-Hop Fridays: Rap COPINTELPRO XI: Meet The Press And Tim Russert Connect The Sniper Shootings With Hip-Hop and The 5 Percent Nation Of Islam

Still, as the circumstantial evidence mounts in public, many ignore, don’t pay attention, don’t understand. Some are in denial. Some Hip-Hop journalists still mock or want to ignore this RapCOINTELPRO series, which has been running now for almost three years. Hopefully, many will now begin to take what we have presented more seriously. The entire RapCointelpro series is available, for free, in The Deeper Look Archives at www.blackelectorate.com/search.asp.

Irv Gotti

Irv Gotti

Isn’t it interesting that in the aftermath of the recent raids on both record labels, on both coasts (is the East – West Coast angle with Murder Inc. and ‘Tha Row a coincidence) all that leading figures in the music industry could muster, including the corporate business partners of Suge Knight and Irv Gotti was, “no comment.” Will any 100,000 strong street protests involving Hip-Hop fans be planned to highlight the unprecedented nature of the federal government’s and law enforcement agencies’ targeting of the Hip-Hop music industry? Perhaps, many politically-minded Hip-Hop community members only like to handle certain “safe” subjects, and this is not one of them. Can we expect Hot 97, 107.5 WBLS, and Power 105 in New York to go to the airwaves airing program content that investigates the manner in which prominent artists have not just been arrested and harassed by law enforcement agents, but placed under surveillance and wiretaps by them? Will BET and MTV highlight it? Will The Source and Vibe magazine magazine give cover stories to the issue? Perhaps the entire industry executive establishment at Hip-Hop labels, radio stations, video programs and print media outlets are compromised or even, “complicit” in this. Some or, maybe only a handful.

I think it is time to call the roll within the industry. Where do all of us stand on the real possibility and circumstantial evidence-plus, that Hip-Hop culture, artists, executives and opinion leaders are under attack as part of a larger war being conducted by the United States government? Isn’t the question legitimate, by now? How many more arrests, scandals, propaganda pieces, and even deaths will it take before all of the dots are connected?

I will keep writing until we do.

In addition to this we will all have to look in the mirror. The economic condition of our community will be used against us. It has been a double-edged sword. This is especially true in Hip-Hop culture. We have been sued for sampling music – a practice that grew out of the fact that we could not afford musical instruments or the training necessary to play them. We have been arrested for defacing public and private property because our grafitti expression was not confined to murals and art school and painting classes. We have had people die at concerts with deaths uncompensated because we could not afford security or insurance to put on concerts properly. We have followed the principles of mob figures and corrupt corporate organizations rather than the pure science of business to build Hip-Hop related economic activities. We have accepted the pay-rates and standard contracts of an elite cabal of entertainment lawyers in other genres rather than craft a more equitable, innovative, and wealth-creating legal structure, because we didn’t know of any reputable Black or Latino lawyers or understand the recording business.

Among these shortcomings we are faced with the ultimate weapon. The reality that some of the Hip-Hop music industry has, at times, received seed capital from money and operations from criminal activities. This reality has been the case in broader music genres and in ethnic groups. The Jewish, Irish, and Italian communities all have a documented history of criminal activity funding “legitimate” or legal business activity in this country. Their illegal seed capital is a mountain compared to a molehill of Black, Latino and Arab crime “syndicates.” No street organization today can rival the mob of yesterday (and today).

But Black and Latino Hip-Hop artists have fallen victim to the White supremacy and Black/Latino inferiority complex in their cultural expressions, only helping the conspiracy against them. It was an error and always has been for these artists to glorify mob figures, even taking their names on – in business and artistic ways. It has been an error in judgment for Hip-Hop artists to glorify violence and celebrate guns, and for the Hip-Hop media – the fourth estate and conscience of the culture – to project these images for profit and endorse only a segment of the community for magazine covers and prominent features. I can easily make a sound economic case that the sex-and-violence-formula-as-business plan has meant short-term profits but now, reached a point of diminishing returns and very soon, real bankruptcy.

In the recent BlackElectorate.com chat session, on December 30, 2002, Rev. Al Sharpton said that it is not right for Black artists to engage in commerce by projecting and illustrating our negative reality, becoming wealthy; and at the same time not lift a finger to improve that social reality.

Rev. Sharpton is correct.

Now, the worst of our economic reality is being used as part of a political effort to shut down the most powerful cultural force to emerge among the youth in the last few decades.

Will we watch or fight?

Let’s all discuss this:


Cedric Muhammad

Friday, January 10, 2003



Rap COINTELPRO PtV…The NYPD Zeros In On Hip-Hop

Cedric Muhammad

Cedric Muhammad

The news out this week that the New York Police Department (NYPD) has been specifically watching the Hip-Hop community should come as no surprise to those of you who are regular readers of our “Hip-Hop Fridays” columns. For nearly a year now, we have been writing about the documented relationship between the FBI, local law enforcement and the media in the 1960s and 1970s and comparing that relationship with its real and potential counterpart today, in reference to the Hip-Hop industry. Any skepticism for what we have been arguing should have been swept away by Jay-Z’s arrest two weeks ago, by the NYPD street crime unit, and by this week’s admission from the NYPD, that its gang intelligence unit has been monitoring Hip-Hop artists and the nightspots that they and their fans frequent.

Having said that we hope that no one is really so naïve as to believe the NYPD’s explanation of their activities, that they are doing what they are, to protect Hip-Hop artists. We argue to the contrary and believe that their explained efforts to “serve and protect” the Hip Hop industry is a cover story, or a front to really arrest Hip-Hop artists on gang, drug and racketeering charges. This has been their aim for some time now.

To be sure, there are certainly a few who may be guilty of crimes. But a full-scale monitoring of an entire industry, in its biggest city, is evidence of more than good police work. After all, if drugs and gangs are what they are after, the police would be better staking out raves, heavy metal concerts and the homes of Rock artists in search of heroin, cocaine and ecstasy drug use, as well as ties to organized crime.

Black-Panthers-Huey-Bobby-brownFar from an effort to save rap artists, the effort is an indication of a return to the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program – a program that was aimed at organizations like the Nation Of Islam, the 5% Nation Of Islam, the Black Panthers, SCLC and SNCC. Interestingly, two of the biggest files that the FBI kept during COINTELPRO, were its files on the NOI and the 5 Percenters – the two communities that arguably have had more impact on Hip-Hop than any other.

So now, an entire music industry joins that rarified air, previously the domain of activist and progressive organizations and those concerned with political consciousness, social change and community development. Now, that we have established this fact, we hope that the Hip-Hop community in general, and Hip-Hop artists in particular, are prepared for what awaits them and what has already been happening to them. We hope that they are prepared for their telephone lines to be tapped; their vehicles and homes to be bugged; agents to be placed within their organizations; their friends turned into government informants; letters and communications attributed to them, and even their forged signatures attached to such, without their knowledge; conflicts started between rivals and competitors; lies and half-truths about them planted in various media outlets, and yes, even violent action taken against them.

Every one of these acts, and much, much more were performed in COINTELPRO, with the help of the FBI and local police departments. In order to get an idea of how extensive the FBI’s efforts were, and for evidence of what we have described above, one should visit the FBI’s reading room, in person or online. foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex.htm .

photo credit: Panther 1619

photo credit: Panther 1619

You maybe surprised at some of the names the FBI has in its file index as part of COINTELPRO or other surveillance programs. The list includes several celebrities www.fbi-files.com/celebrities/index.html who the Bureau feared could move the public in ways counter to the desired direction of the status quo. Many of the most famous were White actors. The same fear exists today for Hip-hop artists who may have the most loyal fans in all of the entertainment industry.

The NYPD’s program is already being described as illegal and unconstitutional. Many believe that the program represents “profiling” – a practice that is increasingly coming under fire. It will be interesting to see if civil libertarians or the liberals and progressives which dominate the industry will come to the aid of the Hip-Hop community and defend them from what at the very least, is a massive invasion of privacy and at the most, an act of war.

We advise that Hip-hop artists should not be surprised to find little support from the labels that employ their services. For years, several record executives have been handing over marketing plans and providing information on a variety of artists to federal law enforcement officials. And on the local level, we know of at least two record label executives who have silent alarm buttons in their offices that connect them to the NYPD, in the case of an emergency or violent altercation. Of course these record label execs have their own artists in mind as the likely perpetrators of aggression.

Which leads us to a final point. If the Hip-Hop community is going to avoid the mistakes that the targets of COINTELPRO previously made, they will have to 1) begin to question their “friendships” with record label executives, lawyers and business managers who seem to have no problem providing privileged information to law enforcement officers 2) compare notes with one another 3) discontinue their recently increased leaning toward public disputes, 4) End any activities that can be construed as illegal and 5) they must seek ways to peacefully resolve conflicts and unite.

That is a tall order for rappers with enormous egos, and a disrespect for history, but if lives are to be saved today, a major change in the thinking of Hip-Hop artists and some of their fans must take place, in a hurry.

In light of the NYPD’s new program, if anybody can’t see what is happening by now, we don’t know what else will get their attention, before it is too late.

The more things change the more they stay the same. Hip-Hop…meet COINTELPRO.


Cedric Muhammad

Friday, April 27, 2001