Just months after rocketing to stardom in 2014, Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda was in handcuffs, arrested outside a recording studio by the New York Police Department.
Shmurda, known for the viral Shmoney Dance, was the "driving force" behind a violent Brooklyn gang, a prosecutor said after his arrest. Last fall, he was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to weapons and conspiracy charges.
But here's what wasn't mentioned at the time: The Shmurda bust came with an assist from one of Silicon Valley's most valuable tech startups, whose software helped map the connections among suspected gang members and shootings.
Palantir Technologies, valued at $20 billion, was financed in part with money from the CIA's venture capital arm and is best known for helping the government track suspected terrorists and helping big banks catch fraudsters.
It also helped the NYPD catch Shmurda, BuzzFeed News reported last week — part of a multimillion-dollar partnership that has now come to an end.
Shmurda's arrest and trial riveted the hip-hop world. "Is the 20-year-old rapper a gangster or simply ‘guilty for where I live’?" New York magazine asked. GQ, teasing an exclusive jailhouse interview, asked, "Does the justice system fundamentally misunderstand the world of rap?"
For Palantir, the Shmurda bust was considered a "win," according to an internal email sent by a staffer in January 2015.
Here, according to the Palantir staffer, is how the cops used this software to plan the sting ("Shmurda" and "Shmoney" are misspelled):
In Brooklyn, a user in the gangs task force found relations between the suspects, and other officers at headquarters were able to trace connections between shootings. The info was shared on a giant Palantir graph projected at the NYPD weekly leadership meeting. 10 people were arrested, and were found to have 21 guns between them. This takedown was the downfall of the newly famous rapper Bobby Schmurda and his GS9 crew, famous for the Schmoney Dance (video has strong language). I believe it's the first time a Palantir-related case has been reported by TMZ.
Palantir and the NYPD declined to comment on the Shmurda arrest. Beginning this month, New York's cops are switching to a new data analysis system, built by the NYPD using a group of IBM products.
William Alden is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. Alden covers the technology industry.
Contact William Alden at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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