By Noah Hubbell
By Leslie Simon
By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Inkoo Kang
By Dave Herrerra
By Josiah M. Hesse
Last week's column about the ruckus during the April 9 Jeru the Damaja date at Boulder's Fox Theatre contained a lot of information about the incident, but it lacked an important element: the comments of Jeru himself. When yours truly finally tracked down the rapper, on tour somewhere in the Great Midwest, he turned out to have a lot to say--and some of it contradicted the hypotheses put forward by representatives of the Fox and Small Axe Productions, which promoted the date.
Jeru picks up the tale with the first person he invited on stage for a freestyling contest, identified to the crowd as Art. "That guy, he was cool, wasn't he?" he notes. "And I gave him the same love he gave me. I didn't disrespect him or anything. We were having fun. It was a show--you know what I mean?"
Things did not go nearly as smoothly when a second man--identified by witnesses as a local who goes by the name "African Sam"--challenged Jeru to freestyle with him. "He wasn't nearly as good as the first guy," Jeru says about Sam, who could not be reached for comment. "The first guy was ten times better than him. He had, like, this great ego, but he got booed. And when that happened, my road manager tried to take the mike from him, but he wouldn't give it up."
Tensions started rising at this point, but Jeru swears that he did his best to keep the situation in control. "I said, 'Wait, man, don't beat him up,'" he points out. "I stopped everything and said, 'Let him go again.' I mean, I even gave him another chance--and he was terrible. The crowd booed him, booed him, booed him. And when I went to take the mike again, he got really aggressive. He was aggressive the whole time."
That's so--but African Sam clearly felt that Jeru was just as unruly, going so far as to accuse him of being "hostile." That word set Jeru off. "That's what made me get hostile. And he started saying, 'Do whatever I say, you're in Boulder now,' or something to that effect. And I told him, 'Don't put the crowd into this, because they're not in it. It's me and you. I'll bust your ass myself. Not the crowd, just you.'"
Around this time, a wrestling match over the microphone took place. According to Jeru, "First he tried to snatch it from me, and I stopped it. Then, when I went to take it, he snatched it from me. He pulled it and I pushed it, and it bashed him in the mouth." This was an accident, Jeru claims: "I gave way and everything. He wanted it, so I gave it to him, and that's what happened.
"I guess it hurt him, and he tried to swing his mike at me or something like that. But he missed, because I dipped out of the way. And then he took my punches, and mine just landed more effectively. And then when I turned around, I saw some dudes running up on stage, so I went to kick them off. My whole thing was just to keep the stage clear, because if you didn't belong on the stage, you were getting it. And I was throwing my blows when apparently one of the guys swung something at me. And as my fist went out, I got cut."
What slashed him? When contacted last week, the Fox's Don Strasburg and Small Axe's Fred Dewey, both of whom were present at the concert, surmised that the culprit was a piece of glass from a beer bottle that was thrown mid-scuffle. This theory makes sense, they say, because of the strong security precautions at the theater's door (including metal detectors and pat-down searches), the fact that no weapon was found, and the swiftness with which everything happened. But while Jeru admits that he did not see what sliced his arm, he is certain that it was a razor blade. "I know what a razor blade cuts like," he says. "It cuts straight through--and it was a straight cut just like that. And it wasn't a bottle, because the bottle got thrown afterwards. Somebody cut me with something." He adds that the cutter was not African Sam but another member of Sam's party--"and I saw who it was."
The wound Jeru received took thirteen stitches to close at a Boulder hospital, but he says he didn't notice receiving it at the time. "The security guards told me, 'Look, calm down so you don't get in trouble with the police.' And I'm not a violent person, so I stopped and went to the back. And that's when I noticed that my arm was wet, and I noticed that I had two holes in my arm. But it was nothing to me, so I went back out and did my rhymes. I mean, I hurt myself worse than that when I was a kid." Indeed, Jeru returned to the spotlight, his hand and arm wrapped in a white towel, and freestyled a persuasive rap. He ultimately conceded that he needed to get medical attention, but rather than leaving immediately, he lingered near the stage's edge for several more minutes, even going so far as to show his wound to people in the front row.