Fugees rapper Wyclef Jean strongly denied charges of pointing a gun at the editor of a new hip-hop publication Friday (Aug. 14), suggesting instead that the editor was lying in an effort to sell magazines.
"I don't preach violence and anyone who knows me knows that I carry a guitar, not a gun," Wyclef said in a statement issued by MTV. "I attack with my pen, not a pistol. I'm all about making music. The editor of Blaze is all about selling magazines."
The alleged incident took place in late July, at the Hit Factory studios in New York, during a meeting to discuss what Blaze editor Jesse Washington said was an unfavorable review of Canibus' debut album, Can-I-Bus, which was produced by Wyclef. Washington, a former Associated Press assistant bureau chief, said that he was preparing to run the review in the first issue of his periodical.
Washington claimed that he went public with the allegations that Wyclef had pulled a gun on him in a letter to readers to be published in the first edition of the magazine on Aug. 25, as a way of explaining why a review of the Canibus album would not be in the premiere issue. He insisted he had no other motivation for his allegations.
"We have this new practice of when we give the album a negative review, we want to get the artist to respond," Washington said Thursday. "We sent them a review and they gave it to Canibus and 'Clef. They gave us a response from Canibus, but it was obviously a censored response."
"And so then they approached my writer and that writer was uncomfortable with the things they were saying, [so] naturally I wanted to meet with them," Washington continued, declining to name the author of the review. "We were in there for a long time and at one point the [gun] was pointed in my direction."
Repeated calls to Wyclef's Columbia label and Das Communications management company were not returned. Canibus' Universal label and management company also did not return phone calls regarding the alleged incident. Universal was unhappy with the review, in part because it was based on an incomplete version of the album, according to Washington, who added that requests to obtain the album in its entirety have been ignored.
During his press conference, Wyclef chose to respond to the gun-toting allegations in song, improvising his own version of the Timex Social Club hit "Rumors."
"Look at all these rumors/ spreading everyday/ I need some time, some time to get away," Wyclef sang in the taped interview. "Did you hear that one about Wyclef?/ some said he pulled a gun/ that comes from Mr. Editor/ wants to sell his magazines by the millions."
Although pointing a gun in a threatening manner constitutes a misdemeanor charge of menacing in the state of New York -- punishable by up to a year in jail, according to the New York State Police -- Washington said he has no plans to press charges or file a lawsuit stemming from the incident.
"There's no need as far as I'm concerned. This is over. I don't think he intended to shoot me," Washington said. "At this point, we're two grown men, as far as I'm concerned, I'd like to move past this. He pulled the gun, I pulled the pen and that's it."
News of the alleged threatening behavior on the part of Wyclef came as a surprise to fans familiar with the Fugees' emphasis on positivity, from albums including their 1996 multi-platinum release The Score.
"I wouldn't have expected that kind of behavior going by Wyclef's public persona. I don't know what the hell he was thinking though," 24-year-old Bishop Price of Detroit wrote in an e-mail. "This is the real world, not some urban sub-culture where mindless posturing is respected or even tolerated. What if the journalist wanted to press charges? I wouldn't blame him. I'm still looking forward to Canibus' debut though."
The controversial review of the album will not be included in any future publications of Blaze, according to Washington, who claimed the planned November release date of the second issue of the magazine would be too far from the Sept. 8 release date of the album in question.