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Hip hop journalists, under fire by rappers for portraying them as arrogant, real-life hoods and scantily clad gangsta bitches, braced for a new volley of attacks in the wake of last week's brazen assault on Jesse Washington, editor-in-chief of the Manhattan-based hip hop magazine Blaze.
Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie, a member of rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs's posse of producers known as "The Hit Men," was arrested and charged in the attack on Washington.
The incident comes on the heels of another allegedly violent confrontation between teenage rap sensation Foxy Brown and Danyel Smith, editor-in-chief of Blaze's parent publication, Vibe, an r&b/hip hop magazine founded by Quincy Jones.
Sources say that Brown, upset over an article in the December/January issue of Vibe with a cover photo showing the gangsta coquette practically nude, confronted Smith and struck her. (Neither Smith nor Brown would comment.)
In January 1997, while on tour promoting her first solo album, Ill NaNa, with the Lost Boyz and Camp Lo, Brown was arrested in Raleigh, North Carolina, for allegedly spitting on two Holiday Inn employees and threatening to whack one with a fish bowl after she asked for an iron and they said they couldn't provide one.
Fearing that fallout from the attacks might escalate into all-out war between rappers and journalists, former Nation of Islam minister Conrad Muhammadwho now heads a group called A Movement for CHHANGE (Conscious Hip Hop Activism Necessary for Global Empowerment)says he reached out to Smith, Washington, and Angelettie and offered to mediate "this craziness." Muhammad, dubbed
"the hip hop minister" for his efforts to promote peace in the sometimes violent world of gangsta rap, added that all involved "are very interested in making this thing go away."
"I see the tension rising," says a respected hip hop reporter, who remembers two ghetto griots barging into the offices of a hip hop magazine, and one declaring that "niggaz would be leavin' in body bags" if their new single did not receive a favorable rating. "There is less reason now for people on both sides to restrain themselves," the writer adds. As an upstart in the industry, he points out, "Blaze acknowledges how ridiculous some rappers can get, but they do it in a way that pisses the rappers off. Face it, the hip hop community is ruled by ghetto laws; if some magazine or journalist comes out depicting a rapper as shit, that rapper is gonna test them."
In another development, music industry sources speculated that a simmering feud between Combs and Angelettieproducer of hits such as The Benjaminsand Money, Power, and Respectmay have had something to do with the alleged attack on Washington, a rumor that Washington eagerly shot down.
Almost eight months before Angelettie's arrest, he and Combs allegedly battled over the trademark to the name "The Madd Rapper," the popular underground jester who was featured in a manic interlude in the Notorious B.I.G.'s hit single "Kick in the Door." Industry insiders say Combs balked after Angelettie decided to release an album titled The Madd Rapper on his own label, Crazy Cat. Combs allegedly warned Angelettie that the name was the property of Bad Boy Entertainment, the cutting-edge company he heads. A friend, who describes Angelettie as having a "Christ-like humility," says he became as angry and frustrated as his alter ego.
"Deric was furious!" he says. "He told Puffy, Man, I created the Madd Rapper.' But Puffy said, You created it on my record label. I own it. You work for me.' Deric was like, Fuck you! You don't own the right to my character!"'
In hip hop culture, as the late Notorious B.I.G. put it, "playas" like Combs and Angelettie can both "pull burners, make da muthafuckin' beef cook" and settle their disputes. Angelettie, however, was headed to court.
"It was getting ready to go into litigation," says another source, who is close to Combs and Angelettie. "It was a big falling out, adding to a lot of stress that was evident in Puffy's camp." (A spokeswoman for Combs said he had no comment.)
Ed Woods, Angelettie's entertainment lawyer, told the Voicethat Angelettie launched the Crazy Cat label at the end of the summer and will release the Madd Rapper albumone of the most anticipated in hip hopin January. Woods declined to comment on Angelettie's alleged quarrel with Combs.
"Although you didn't hear about it, Deric got really pissed because he has a lot riding on that album," an industry insider claims. Angelettie allegedly became more enraged after he discovered that Blaze was about to publish a photograph of the Madd Rapper. Outside of hip hop circles, the musician's identity has been secret, and no pictures have ever been published.
Around 4:30 p.m. on November 16, Angelettie and three other men allegedly barged into the magazine's Lexington Avenue office and confronted Jesse Washington. They reportedly started arguing, and Washington told police the men grabbed him and beat him with a chair and their fists before running off. Washington, who suffered facial fractures and cuts on his head, identified Angelettie as one of his assailants. Three days later, Angelettie and Anthony Hubbard, both 30, surrendered at the 17th Precinct station house in Manhattan, and were charged with second-degree assault. "They deny all these allegations," says Ian Niles, an attorney who represented Angelettie and Hubbard at their arraignment. "We're gonna fight this case vigorously."