Criticism Of Wyclef's Alleged Gun Threat Shifts To Rap Media

Editorial in Rap Pages and reaction of musicians and fans suggest debate is taking new direction.

Nearly two months after Blaze editor Jesse Washington went public

with claims that Fugees rapper Wyclef Jean threatened him with a gun, fans

and artists continue to weigh in with their comments on the allegation.

But with an editorial in the just-published November issue of a competing

magazine, Rap Pages, and with related reactions, the debate seems to

be taking a new turn. Now the focus appears to be as much on how the

Blaze editor, as well as the editor of a competing rap publication, Rap Pages,

have handled discussion of the alleged incident as it is on whether Wyclef

pulled the gun.

The hip-hop star claimed, on MTV, that the incident never happened.

In the Los Angeles-based Rap Pages' editorial, executive editor Allen

Gordon -- while claiming Wyclef "didn't deny" having pulled the gun when he met with him -- discusses the ramifications of artists

threatening journalists and criticizes how Blaze handled the

allegation, claiming Washington exploited the incident to promote his

magazine.

"Part of me wishes they'd just let it go," said Wyclef fan Diana Walker of

Newark, N.J., who was contacted through a Fugees fan site. "We'll probably

never know whether or not it really happened, so forget it, you know? But

seeing the editorial, I think the argument is more on the side that the

real issue has been ignored, that Blaze grabbed a hold of a serious

issue and used it to its advantage, rather than making a strong statement

about it. To me, the issue has become something more about integrity in the

hip-hop press than anything."

Blaze's Washington went public with the claim in an editorial in

that magazine's premiere issue, which hit stands in late August. He alerted the media

via a press release prior to the publication of that issue.

Washington claimed that the gun threat took place at Hit Factory Studios in

late July, during a meeting to discuss an unfavorable review of rapper

Canibus' album Can-I-Bus, which Wyclef produced. The review was

slated to run in Blaze's premiere issue but was pulled after the

alleged threat. Washington claimed that the only reason he went public with

the allegation was to explain to readers why the review didn't appear in

the issue.

Soon after, Wyclef denied the incident on MTV, suggesting Washington had

made up the incident to sell magazines.

Since its release, Canibus's album is at #47 on the Billboard 200

albums chart, after debuting in the #2 spot. Wyclef, who is currently on a

college tour promoting his solo release The Carnival, recently told

SonicNet Music News that he was pleased with how Can-I-Bus

has fared so far. "We worked real hard on that record, so we're very happy

to see that it has reached so many people," he said while standing in the

crowd at the traveling Lyricist Lounge rap show in San Francisco. "It's

just like this show, concentrating on the lyrics and what's real."

Fellow rapper Kurupt, formerly of the Dogg Pound, recently spoke out about

the allegation and the rap media's handling of it. "If [the allegation] is

real, it's a problem," said the Dogg Pound member and solo artist. "If it's

not real, [Washington] needs to be fired. If it's not real, he's making a

mockery out of this game and he needs to be eliminated. If he's telling the

truth, the brother needs to post up and check himself."

"Wyclef isn't pulling no guns on nobody when he wants to make money,"

Kurupt added. "No disrespect to Blaze and no disrespect to (its

sister publication) Vibe, but I've got a big problem with people

making a mockery out of this hip-hop game."

In his Rap Pages editorial, Gordon claims that Wyclef indicated he

had made the threat during a impromptu meeting he'd had with the rapper at

an album-listening session for Canibus' record in August. Gordon

reached that conclusion after asking Wyclef four times about the incident;

the first three times Gordon asked Clef if he made the threat, the rapper

denied it, the editor said. On the fourth time, Wyclef shugged and nodded,

according to Gordon.

A spokesperson for Wyclef, who did not want to be named, called Gordon's

claim of an admission "ludicrous."

Gordon said he has yet to receive much response to his editorial, since the

November issue of Rap Pages has not hit most stands. "We aren't

really looking for a response," Gordon said Thursday. "We just wanted to

give something to our readers."

However, he said reactions from members of the industry to whom he faxed

the editorial have been complimentary about his taking a stand on the

larger issues involved.

Contacted Sept. 28, Washington had only one comment on Gordon's criticism of

the way Blaze dealt with the allegation against Wyclef. "I'm glad

other magazines want to write editorials on my editorial," he said from

Blaze's New York offices.

Meanwhile, Wyclef is putting together the score for the

forthcoming Eddie Murphy film "Life" as well as producing the upcoming

release by R&B legends Earth, Wind & Fire. "I'm just a young kid and these

are old legends," Wyclef said of working with the group.

The rapper was on the hip-hop heavy Smokin' Grooves tour when Washington

went public with the allegation against him. Rapper Sen Dog, who was on the

tour with his band Cypress Hill, said he never asked Wyclef about the

alleged incident because he figured "it was none of my business."

"But if that's true, if that's true, I would just say that I would never do

anything like that to anybody in the industry," Sen Dog said. "But at the same

time, you know, there's got to be some kind of reasoning behind it. He

seems to be a very level-headed young man, and I just don't see him being

the type to fly off the handle like that because that's a very serious

offense right there."

"If it's true, I guess he knew what he was doing," Sen Dog continued. "If

that's just a promotional story to get people talking about the new album

or something, good f---ing way to do it, you know? But I would never go

that way."