When we first met Jadon Woodard, he was freestyling on the subways and selling his CDs by hand. He was part of New York City's in-person rap community, the earnest, persistent hustlers who still sell CDs by hand.
In 2017, the hard work is paying off—Jadon has been pulling in sponsorships, touring overseas, and working with some legendary NYC producers. There's also an album around the corner. With all these new gigs, Jadon has been busking less and less. But before he could stop entirely, Jadon had one more run-in with police.
Late one night at Brooklyn's Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway stop, Jadon and his longtime collaborator Ghsts & Guitars started playing and rapping while waiting for the train. That particular station is also home to the NYPD Transit Bureau, and two plainclothes police officers were on the platform.
A few songs in, a commuter put a dollar at the feet of Jadon and Ghst. The two undercovers quickly approached and cuffed the two artists on a soliciting charge. The two men had no priors, and Ghst was released after a couple of hours. But Jadon was held for nineteen hours in Kings County Criminal Court—and he was supposed to play a show with Ghst the next night. "We had a show at 8:30 the next day," Jadon explains. "We got arrested at 11:30, and it takes between 19 and 23 hours for them to let you out if your record is clean. You spend all that time in there, and when you see the judge, it's 30 seconds. I got out of there, and I booked it—I got to the show just as Ghst was about to drop the beat."
It was a happy ending, but the story never should have happened. It's legal to play on the subway's platforms, but artists are regularly intimidated or arrested by police. Jadon and Ghst had 90 days to decide whether or not to file suit, and they went for it on day 89. Their case joined a civil suit that included the high-profile case of Andrew Kalleen, a guitarist whose arrest video went viral in 2014.
Jadon, Ghst, and Andrew ended up winning their suit—but confusion around the legality of subway performance persists. Busk NY's Matthew Christian faced down an officer in the new Second Avenue subway in early 2017. While Christian says the overall number of incidents is decreasing, it's not a done deal. We talked to Jadon, Ghst, and a former NYPD captain to try and understand why the cops keep targeting subway performers, and how Jadon managed to get his $50,000 dollar payout. Check out the resulting album below, and our first video with Jadon below.