Many in the hip-hop community agree that rap producer Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie's alleged involvement in the assault of Blaze editor Jesse Washington last week is cause for concern.
But some say Washington's statement to the Associated Press that Angelettie's anger was inspired by a published photo revealing him to be the Mad Rapper is more ironic than anything else.
Ironic, they say, because the character's allure wasn't his mystery within the hip-hop world, but his mockery of it, including its violent stereotypes.
"I've never really cared who the Mad Rapper was," said Tawala Sharp, assistant music director at BEAT-FM in Los Angeles. "The whole Mad Rapper thing is a parody of other people in the industry. It's a skit that's put on every album, just to let everyone who's listening to the [Puff Daddy] albums know, 'I hear y'all haters out there, I know exactly what you're saying, and this is how stupid y'all sound.' "
The Mad Rapper, whose real identity had been concealed from the public until last week, has appeared on several albums on the Bad Boy Records label that Angelettie produced, including rapper Mase's breakthrough, Harlem World, and the just-released Bad Boy Greatest Hits, Volume 1. That compilation features Angelettie on a number of tracks including the opening number, "Mad Rapper Intro" (RealAudio excerpt).
As a member of rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs' stable of producers known as "The Hit Men," Angelettie is renowned for his production style, combining the distinctive rhythms and attitudes of hip-hop with the hooky qualities of mainstream pop music.
In Blaze's December/January issue, the Mad Rapper is one of nine artists reviewed in a section called "Deez Cuts." Angelettie's photo accompanies commentary from four different reviewers on the Mad Rapper's song "Gonna Beat Ya'all." The first reviewer, identified as "DA," reflects, "If this song is serious, then I'm really pissed off. If it's a parody, then I love it."
Some hip-hop fans say that kind of duality is what the Mad Rapper is all about.
"There's that double-edge sh-- to it," Jerome Brooks, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y., wrote in an e-mail. "He's making fun of ... haters, people dissing getting on commercial sh--. But you have to get that it's mockery -- otherwise you're not laughing hard enough. Then again, if D-Dot did this, it kind-of makes you wonder if he's serious as the Mad Rapper."
Last week, a Blaze spokeswoman said that Washington had scheduled a meeting Nov. 16 with Angelettie to discuss a photo of him in the magazine's current issue, which reveals him to be the Mad Rapper; Angelettie's name does not appear with the photo.
According to police, Washington was beaten with a chair in a conference room at Blaze's offices that afternoon, resulting in lacerations and fractures to the editor's face.
Angelettie and Anthony Hubbard surrendered to police Thursday morning and pleaded not guilty to assault; two other alleged assailants remain at large.
Washington claimed in the AP interview that he didn't understand why Angelettie was so upset over the photo because most people in the hip-hop industry knew the producer was the Mad Rapper.
Marcus Reeves, music news editor at the hip-hop magazine The Source, agreed that it was commonly known in hip-hop press that Angelettie was behind the character, although he said he didn't know it himself, firsthand. More importantly, Reeves said, it was not known among hip-hop fans.
"I didn't feel any rush to find out who the Mad Rapper was," Reeves said. "But at the same time, I would say that there was probably a switch in plans for this character. Before, I think it was probably something fun, but when it picked up momentum, it became someone's livelihood.
"One of the things about music obviously is the marketing," he continued, "and marketing the secrecy of the Mad Rapper is a way to get the hype up, to get the buzz. It adds an edge to it."
Hip-hop fan Jerome Brooks said that younger fans may have put more emphasis on the mystique of the Mad Rapper's identity, while he said it didn't have much to do with the Mad Rapper's appeal to him personally.
"If it is D-Dot, I had no idea and I didn't really care," he wrote. "The Mad Rapper can still be the Mad Rapper even if D-Dot's behind it. I don't think it matters."
Sharp had a similar response. He said that Angelettie allegedly attacking Washington over being exposed as the Mad Rapper would be like the man born O'Shea Jackson attacking someone for revealing that Jackson is a famous rapper by the name of Ice Cube.
Therefore, Sharp said, if the allegation against Angelettie is true, there must be more to it than a photo.
On the other hand, The Source's Reeves said he could understand why Angelettie reportedly was angry at Washington for blowing his cover. Still, he didn't believe Washington was wrong in running the photo.
"That's where hip-hop and journalism collide," Reeves said. "A lot of these rappers are trying to make a living, trying to sell records, and trying to feed a persona that we all want. And here we are as journalists out there, trying to get the information for our audience. When those two things conflict, you can get some heavy sparks flowing."
Rap-publicist Phyllis Pollack, whose clients include rappers C-Bo and the Geto Boys' Bushwick Bill, speculated that the photo may have gone virtually unnoticed if the alleged attack hadn't happened.
"It sure let a lot more people know that it's out there now," Pollack said. "If you want to keep something secret, don't do something that will bring in the cops and The Associated Press."