This past Saturday morning, I spent about an hour cleaning up around the crib. I threw on some music, not sure what it was—could’ve been Project Pat or maybe Jill Scott, I can’t say I remember. I do, however, recall the start of my listening experience because it was so damn alarming. It was last Wednesday’s episode of the New York Times podcast The Daily, which focused on Madison Square Garden Entertainment using facial recognition software to ban its legal opponents from venues. Later that night, the publication’s own Jon Caramanica spotted NYPD filming people leaving Drake’s gig at The Apollo Theater.
New York City mayor Eric Adams once said “when a mayor has swagger, the city has swagger." By that logic, one may wonder: If a mayor was once a police officer, does that make the city even more of a police state?
It’s a wonder what NYPD is up to here. Maybe they’re trying to see if they can catch Baka slipping. That’s probably not the case, though. New York cops have a long history of over-policing hip-hop spaces, word to Chamillionaire. Years ago, news spread that the Big Apple’s police force had something called the Enterprise Operations Unit, which was nicknamed the Rap Unit. Remy Ma was among the many rappers surveilled by the unit. At the time, her lawyer, Dawn Florio, said the Rap Unit's purpose was to “constantly stalk high-profile rap artists and monitor their every move.” Could this be an extension of the Rap Unit? Are they trying to pick up suspects at a Drake show of all places?
Thanks to an ordinance passed by the New York City Council in 2017, NYPD must disclose the surveillance technology it uses and the purpose of such. And it appears they have; according to Atlanta Black Star, a spokesman for NYPD told the outlet the following: “The officer depicted in the video is a Community Affairs officer involved with the 28th Precinct’s social media team. The officer was taking video for an upcoming Twitter post that will highlight local community events. The video will not be utilized for any other reason.” Sounds innocuous enough, but don't blame me for second guessing the NYPD's intentions around surveillance—especially considering its use of more than 15,000 cameras around the city to track people using facial recognition technology on some Eagle Eye shit.
The Daily podcast about James Dolan and Madison Square Garden Entertainment is so creepy and dystopian because they are using facial recognition software to flag people. In the brave new world ahead of us, it’s important to wonder what is a reasonable expectation of privacy and how people in power can find ways to abuse technology. It’s not farfetched to assume the NYPD might’ve been up to something similar at the Apollo Saturday night. The legality of such is a gray area because while we may morally object, the people who wrote the Constitution weren’t really thinking about facial recognition software. If you brought something like this up back then, they’d probably drown you for being a witch.
Anyway, people seemed to have a great time at the two nights of performances (well, for the most part). Drake ran through his old hits, wore a Degrassi High jersey and Cam’ron cosplay, and brought out Dipset and 21 Savage. Adams attended, too—maybe the self-proclaimed hip-hop mayor wanted an up-close look at the festivities for himself.
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