Revenge of the Mad Rappers

When hip hoppers use violence to silence their critics

The allegation came as a shock to Angelettie's friends in the industry, who all agreed that he is a musician who selflessly dedicates himself to helping others. They argued that he must have been provoked. Angelettie, says one confidant, understood the distinctions between identity and invisibility in hip hop culture: a rapper with too many faces has no identity at all.

"A lot of people knew he was the Madd Rapper," says the friend. "It was no secret in the industry and among the hip hop kids. What was Jesse Washington exposing that wasn't already known? If by Jesse revealing that D-Dot was the Madd Rapper, and that breached his anonymity and fucked with his record deal, I could see a nigga whippin' somebody's ass over."

Famed r&b musician James Mtume, who presented a prestigious music industry award to Angelettie earlier this year, says he cannot authenticate the accusation that Washington's imminent unmasking set the wunderkind producer off. "I don't buy it was just that," adds Mtume. "Deric is very humble. It's like you heard I went and beat up somebody because he said I was too old to be singing. Then you find out that he tried to rape my daughter. And then you say, ‘Oh, that's why.' This kid wouldn't beat up somebody for a bullshit reason like blowing his identity."

The Mad Rapper: Deric Angelettie surrenders to police.
NY Post / Corbis
The Mad Rapper: Deric Angelettie surrenders to police.

The alleged attacks on Washington and Smith will once more put hip hop on trial. Again, the spotlight will be on the real-life violence of many high-profile rappers and producers. Two recent incidents made headlines:

  • On November 5, Wu-Tang Clan member Russell Tyrone Jones was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill his former girlfriend. It was the 29-year-old rapper's second arrest in recent months. On September 17, Jones was arrested in West Hollywood for allegedly threatening to kill security guards at a blues club when they asked him to leave because he was "drunk, disorderly, and annoying other patrons." When they escorted him out, police said, Jones threatened to return and shoot them.

  • On August 30, hip hop star Noreaga fled a suburban Harrisburg hotel after being charged with assaulting a teenager in a parking lot following a disastrous concert. Noreaga, whose songs include "Stick You" and "War Report," had been booed off the stage after one song during which he allegedly shouted obscenities at the angry crowd. He rushed to the parking lot, where fans followed him to his car. After someone threw a bike at the vehicle, police said, Noreaga and his bodyguard jumped out and beat 16-year-old Clinton Burns.

    Virtually ignored in the uproar over violence between rappers and their fans are the bellicose encounters between rappers and hip hop journalists. The alleged attack by Deric Angelettie was the second time Jesse Washington said he had been accosted by an angry rapper.

    In August, Washington accused Wyclef Jean of the Fugees of pointing a gun at him after Jean learned that Blaze planned to publish an unfavorable review of an album he had produced. Washington did not file charges in the incident, which allegedly occurred as the magazine was debuting. Jean told an MTV interviewer the report was a publicity stunt and insists the incident never happened.

    In their disenchantment with hip hop journalists, whom they accuse of trying to tarnish their image, some rappers invoke the saying that "there are two kinds of people in the world today, the playaz [and] the playa hataz." When a hip hop journalist has been labeled a "playa hata," his detractors retaliate with lightning gangsta resolve in response to unfavorable reviews or verbal beatdowns.

    The 1991 attack on Fox TV personality Dee Barnes remains one of the most brutal examples of a rapper's disdain for his critics. Dr. Dre, formerly of the rap group N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude), pleaded no contest to beating the host of the Pump It Up rap show at a Hollywood party. He was fined $2500 and placed on two years' probation. Dre also was ordered to perform 240 hours of community service and produce an antiviolence public service announcement for television.

    "There is a natural tension between the hip hop artists, producers, label owners, and fair journalism," says Bill Stephney, the CEO of Step Sun Music Inc., a rap and r&b company.

    The rise in tension prompted Detroit News reporter Darrell Dawsey to speak out in 1993. "For years, I've heard stories about hip-hop artists bullying the young black critics who cover rap music," Dawsey wrote. "Writers critical of certain albums have been denied interviews, removed from mailing lists, and threatened with physical harm. A hip-hop columnist in New York reports that Ice-T has threatened him for raising questions about Ice-T after he dropped the controversial song 'Cop Killer' from his metal group's album."

    Dawsey himself was the alleged victim of a rap attack. "Shoot, some unknown ‘hard-core' clown even called and threatened me after I overlooked him while doing a piece on Detroit hip-hop," he wrote. "I laughed for hours. After all, what smarter way is there to get a writer to mention you than by cussing out his voicemail? (Mr. Hardcore is dead now, from what I hear.)"

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