March 4 - As gunplay between two chart-topping gangsta rappers and the trial of a rap diva vie for top headlines this week, federal authorities are pressing a wide-ranging investigation into the $1.5-billion hip-hop music industry, NEWSWEEK has learned.
According to top industry insiders, federal investigators are digging into a playlist of crimes, ranging from extortion and robbery to the industry’s persistent violence and mounting casualties—including the unsolved murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG. Investigators are “asking about anyone in hip hop from what I understand,” says a top music lawyer. Another top lawyer and a prominent entertainment business manager also said they were aware of an investigation. In a NEWSWEEK interview, one influential executive who was questioned recently by investigators adds: “It’s a federal investigation of hip hop and the music business and the crimes that have come out of it.”