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Howard Rubin: The 5-Foot Tall Hip-Hop Cop For The Stars.

November 20, 2013

Rubin01smallText and lower image by Christopher Malo. Other images courtesy of Howard Rubin.

“I’m 5-feet tall,” says Howard Rubin sitting in an empty room off the reception area of the North American Motor Inn on City Line Avenue where he moonlights as a guard. “I have a Napoleon complex. I will move crowds.”

Dressed in an officer’s uniform, complete with his firearm on his hip, the 45-year-old native of Northeast Philadelphia lays out his 30-year career providing security for some of the biggest names in the rap game. In fact it was one of rap’s most celebrated icons that gave him the nickname he is most known by in the industry.

There are stories. A lot of stories. Alleged sex with a Miami rapper’s dancer. Allegedly saving a well-known Queensbridge MC from gun charges. Hiding an artist out after alleged relations with a groupie who may or may not have been of age. Oh, and then there is the time he was shot in the neck at close range with a .45-caliber handgun.

Rubin03smallBeing small in stature but huge in giving and getting respect is a thread that weaves through his life. It is a philosophy that almost killed him, has kept him alive and guided him through a long and unblemished career protecting rap music’s rich and famous.

Rubin began doing security work after graduating from Northeast High School, working events like the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Eventually, he provided security for groups like New Kids On The Block. When he started doing private security, Rubin became a Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Officer, an agent of the state, through training with Pennsylvania State Police.

It was his relationship with music industry veteran Big Scott Shepherd that segued Rubin into the rap world. Around 1993, Rubin began providing security for the Bad Boy Records roster of Biggie Smalls, Junior Mafia and Lil’ Kim. It was Biggie who looked at Rubin and told him he reminded him of Sweetchuck from the Police Academy movies. He began calling Rubin “Sweetchuck, the Hip-Hop Cop.” The name stuck. From that point forward, whenever artists came through Philly, Rubin served as their point man on security.

“With my Napoleon attitude, I would go in, set up security, make sure everything was calm, cool and collected, and I just played my part,” Rubin notes. “They had somebody they could trust. Somebody they respected. And someone who wouldn’t disrespect them or what they were doing.”

Being in such close proximity to artists who don’t always adhere to the letter of the law can put one who is supposed to uphold the law in a precarious situation. It is something Rubin has had to deal with on many occasions.

“I have to play both sides of the fence,” Rubin says. “I have been with Method Man and Redman when there was so much weed smoke being blown that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. You have to play both sides because your job is to protect your artist at all costs. They are smoking so much weed, it can put them away for life but that’s where you have to balance. As a police officer, you try and balance the scales of justice.”

The worlds Rubin straddles met in a violent collision in West Philadelphia on Dec. 15, 2010. These days, he provides security for champion boxer Danny Garcia, but at that time, Rubin provided security for Philly boxing legend Bernard Hopkins. Rubin was going to escort Hopkins’ wife to a Janet Jackson show but first he needed to get the brakes fixed on his 2002 Cadillac Seville. Waiting inside the Sunoco while the car was being serviced, an argument broke out between Rubin and someone who had taken anti-freeze without paying. Tensions quickly escalated when he felt the owners of the service station were being disrespected. Eventually the thief left, only to return 20 minutes later – with a pistol.

“I remember him pointing the gun at me,” Rubin says. “It was a .45 automatic. He says, ‘Who you disrespecting now?’ Not thinking, I try to run out of the store. The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘I want to get away.’ I run to the door and I heard the flash. That was the .45-caliber bullet going into my neck.”

Rubin points to the inch-and-a-half long scar at the base of his skull, less than a half-inch from his spinal cord. Shot on a Wednesday night, he went into surgery to remove the bullet on Friday and left the hospital on Saturday to recover at his sister’s house. He attributes being alive to one factor.

“Being determined,” he says. “Knowing that I put my life out on the line for other people, now the tables turned because I’m a victim. I’m a victim of a violent crime. I felt what I did was right. Protecting the people behind the counter from someone who was disrespecting them.”

He returned to his day job as a school police officer at Multi-Cultural Academy Charter School only four months later. The fact that there are no long-term physical repercussions is a miracle, he says.

Two weeks after Rubin was shot, a car chase with Rubin’s assailant ended when the suspect opened fire on police. When police returned fire, they shot and killed the man.

“They killed my shooter but now I have to be the frontline and walk with those individuals whose shooters have never been caught yet,” Rubin says. “By standing as one unified force, we can make a difference. A lot of people are too afraid to do it. I fight everyday to be better than what I was yesterday. I never stop fighting for the artist I protect because that’s my job.”


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