Rap stars including 50 Cent, P Diddy and Busta Rhymes have been under secret surveillance by police in the United States, it emerged today.
Fearing that rivalries between rap artists could lead to violence, officers in Miami have reportedly compiled dossiers on the stars and track their movements when they are in the state.
Police said the operation was for the safety of the artists as much as the public.
“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.”
He told the Miami Herald: “What would law enforcement be if we closed our eyes?”
It is understood that the rappers are photographed when they arrive at Miami Airport.
Often they are trailed and their hotels and concert venues are put under surveillance, the report said.
“A lot, if not most, rappers belong to some sort of gang,” Miami police Sergeant Rafael Tapanes told the newspaper.
“We keep track of their arrests and associates.”
He said the police department in Miami kept a black binder holding rappers’ names and details.
It includes smaller artists like Black Rob up to major figures like Sean “P Diddy” Combs, Jay-Z, Nas and Busta Rhymes.
Sgt Tapanes said the New York Police Department gave the details to local law enforcement during a three-day “hip-hop training session” in May.
Officers from other major cities including Los Angeles and Atlanta attended the event.
He said: “Everybody that went got a binder with information on rappers that have been arrested, outlining charges.
“They were trained on what to look for in the lyrics, what to look for when they go to hip-hop concerts, what radio stations and TV stations to monitor to keep abreast of any rift between these rappers.”
Police are thought to have taken the decision in light of the killings of high-profile industry stars like Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G. and Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay.
The six inch thick binder begins with a photograph and rap sheet of Grammy-nominated rapper 50 Cent.
The last artist in the dossier is Ja Rule.
The pair have been involved in a feud for some years.
It is believed that the Miami operation to track the artists started after a rap festival in 2001, when 250,000 fans flocked to South Beach.
Police made 211 arrests mostly for disorderly conduct and drunkenness.
“Nobody on the beach had a handle on who the players were,” Mr Press said.
“We didn’t know anything. We didn’t know who were the big record labels, who were the kingpins.
“We didn’t know why there were rivalries with Ja Rule and Eminem.”
Civil rights campaigners and music industry figures have complained that the monitoring of mostly-black rappers is, at best, due to a misunderstanding of the industry, and at worst prompted by racism.
Anthony DeCurtis, contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine, said the police move was unprecedented.
He said there had been “no shortage of rock stars and other musicians” scrutinised by police over the years.
“But there has never been anything like this.”
Benjamin Chavis, president and chief executive officer of The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, said: “Some people see gangs and hip-hop artists as being synonymous.
“That’s a mistake. The recording industry is a legitimate American enterprise, not a gang.”
Mr Press said the decision was as much to protect the rappers.
“If we know 50 Cent is coming to town then of course we have to be on alert,” he said.
“We know there have been multiple attempts on his life.”