NYPD officers are now familiarizing themselves with the local rap game in order to gain a better understanding of gang violence in the city.
The New York Times reports the department's new strategy is part of a larger plan to move away from stop-and-frisk practices, issuing longer-term anti-gang investigations to help reduce crime.
In an effort to better understand the nuances of rivalries and build evidence for criminal cases, officers have started watching local rappers' music videos, and paying attention to lyrics that mention neighborhood gangs.
The artists, intent on expressing their passion for the music, know the risk they take when infusing their music with real-life criminal activities.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” manager Patrice Allen told the Times. “If you have that much passion and love for the music, I guess you have to deal with it. That’s just what comes with the music. It’s the bitter and the sweet, you know?”
In 2011, the NYPD began utilizing a similar approach by forming a social media team dedicated to monitoring the Facebook pages of notable gang members known to use the social networking site to insult rivals and boast of crimes.
Officers often create Facebook and Twitter aliases to befriend members and gain access to their activities.
The project was deemed so successful, the department doubled the size of the unit following year.
However fruitful the social media unit may be in tracking down criminals, some question its possible infringement on free speech.
Musician Ronald Herron, better known as Ra Diggs, was charged with three counts of murder in 2012, with one of the charges connected to Tweets he allegedly wrote.
"My utilization of the internet & its social networks is being paraphrased, misquoted, and repeated in the most blatantly corrupt and debased manner to demonize the perception of me," Herron said in defense of his social media activities. "While art often imitates life, and vice-versa, there is a stark line of delineation between reality and entertainment."