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.
Although Jeru did provide an incident report to the Boulder Police Department, he confirms that he has no interest in pressing charges against the unknown slasher. "The police are going to say I was a victim because I was in the hospital, but nobody did anything to Jeru. Jeru is all right. Thirteen stitches is baby stuff. I only have Band-Aids on it. And if I'm the victim, you should see the assailant. He was getting mopped up all over the whole stage, the floor. So I'm not going to stop my life to go to Boulder to try to find some nobody guy who couldn't even fight like a man and tried to cut me with something. And I'm not looking for the police to protect me."
As for his reported decision to stop inviting people on stage for freestyling contests, Jeru says his reasons have more to do with the safety of others than his own well-being. "I don't want to have to hurt anybody anymore. Because I heard that guy screaming, 'Please stop, please stop, no more, no more.' So he was hurt, you know what I mean? And I don't want to hurt people. I don't like to hit people. But I am a warrior, and I will defend myself at any cost.
"We're still about peace and love. But how can you stand for peace and love if people are going to be able to just take you out? If I'm trying to uphold something, I have to be able to hold it down. So that's it. We're just holding down righteousness."
As anyone who reads obituary columns knows, the Jeru flap comes at a time when the pressure to end the violence that surrounds hip-hop has never been higher. But whereas calls for peace immediately following the deaths of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. garnered widespread mainstream attention, the same cannot be said about a rap summit held April 3 in Chicago. The reason for this state of affairs likely has everything to do with the man who called the meeting: Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who's back on the Caucasian press's persona non grata list now that more than a year has passed since 1995's Million Man March. But based upon his attendance at the daylong conference, Denver's Lonnie Lynn, who was profiled in Westword alongside his son, rapper Common Sense ("Father and Son Reunion," February 22, 1995), believes that progress was made during this low-key get-together. "Everything was done in the flavor of atonement," he says. "I think people are truly trying to move forward."
Lynn was invited to sessions at Farrakhan's house and the Nation's Salaam Restaurant both because of his relationship to Common Sense, who accompanied him, and because of his position as Colorado director of the Amer-I-Can Foundation, a so-called life-skills management program founded in 1988 by onetime National Football League star Jim Brown. The other attendees included African-American leaders like Benjamin Chavis (who recently changed his name to Benjamin Chavis Mohammed) and Kwame Toure (known in the Sixties as Stokely Carmichael) and a who's who of hip-hop, including Snoop Doggy Dogg, Doug E. Fresh, members of Tha Dogg Pound and Goodie Mob, and Ice Cube. The presence of Cube was especially important from Lynn's perspective, because he and Common Sense recently had been involved in the sort of name-calling and credibility-challenging that's endemic in hip-hop. "But when Cube got the microphone and began to speak," Lynn notes, "he acknowledged my son and called him up to the mike, and they embraced. They talked more later in the day, and everything looks like it's going to be better from now on." He adds that the various artists went beyond a pledge of an East Coast-West Coast truce. In the planning stages as a result of the caucus are an album featuring all of those present and a possible joint tour. Farrakhan himself may be hitting the road: Chavis Mohammed was in Denver last week doing advance work for a possible visit.
In the meantime, Lynn is looking forward to his second appearance on a Common Sense CD. His first, "Pop's Rap," was a highlight of Common Sense's last disc, Resurrection. Now Lynn has gotten the chance to share his feelings about parenting for an as-yet-untitled sequel being put together for Common Sense's next album, which is slated for a summer release. "I gave them four and a half hours of material all by myself," he says with a laugh. "I suppose they're going to have to edit it down."
Because he's spent so much time in Texas and other gulf states during the past couple of years, guitarist Emilio has been out of the Denver-music-scene loop to some degree. But his latest cassette, Texas Tones Live, shows that he remains a scorching guitarist. The first cut, "Test," is a six-string firefight of epic dimensions; "Commit a Crime," a Howlin' Wolf cover, is alternately slinky and raucous; and "Hot Tamales" is wild and spicy. Sometimes Emilio's energy is so out of control that he seems histrionic--that's especially true of his singing. But if a blues-rock freakout is your idea of a good time, you won't find a better one than Texas Tones Live (EmilioMusic, P.O. Box 12349, Denver 80212). Guitarist Bob Yeazel, best known for his association with Sugarloaf, has been part of the Colorado music community for well over a generation, which may explain why his new CD, Rough Cut Stone, sounds as if it was transported from a previous rock era. "Street Justice," "The Road Song," "Gnarly Davidson," a faithful cover of Sugarloaf's "Green Eyed Lady" and the title cut are old-style R&R with a bluesy edge; they'd probably sound fine in a biker bar over a pitcher or two, but there's nothing new going on in them. "Psycho Bitches From Hell," meanwhile, features misogynistic lyrics ("Say, baby, is that lipstick/Or is that blood on your face?") that only O.J. Simpson could love. The little girls don't understand (available in area record stores).
Lannie Garrett has been reincarnated more times than Shirley MacLaine. On Just for a Thrill, her new CD, she's a torch singer with a taste for the standards. She's fortunate to have gained the assistance of a top-drawer list of accompanists, including Nelson Rangell, whose saxophone solo highlights "You Belong to Me"; Ron Miles, who shines on "Chances Are"; Billy Tolles, who makes "Scotch and Soda"; and Eric Gunnison, whose decorative keyboard-playing animates "Goodnight My Love." On these and other selections, Garrett gives performances that are perfectly adequate, if never more than that. Hence, the disc is a satisfactory way to pass an hour or so--but thrilling it ain't (available in area records stores). Gunnison is also a key member of the band that backs up vocalist Robin Braun on her CD Arlington 1:00 A.M.--and his presence isn't the only thing that Braun's offering shares with Garrett's. The title cut is a Braun original, but the remainder are covers, most of which fall into the chestnut category: "Old Devil Moon" and "My Funny Valentine" are examples. Braun has a jazzy approach to phrasing that keeps her renditions fairly buoyant by Holiday Inn standards--meaning that if you're a traveling salesman, you'll feel right at home (available in area record stores).
Susan Renner, who was part of a popular early-Nineties Denver duo called the Echotwins, now lives in New York City, but her debut CD, White Gloves and Party Manners (on SKR Records), finds her very much in the same territory she trod while in Colorado. She rocks (in a mostly acoustic kind of way) through a very professional collection of el sensitivo tunes about personal issues of the sort that populate the grueling "Sister Mary," in which Renner recounts being on the wrong end of a nun's ruler. Those of you (like me) who get the shivers at the mere thought of the Indigo Girls will have a better time chewing on broken glass than listening to this. But if indigo is your favorite color, you'll likely be entranced (SKR Records, P.O. Box 1398, New York, NY 10023).
Denver's Sugar Bear makes his CD debut with Guitar Playing Man, but the disc isn't the blues workout that most people have been anticipating. "Caught in the Middle" and "Got a Thing Going On" primarily stick to R&B and soul, "She's Wonderful to Me" is a heartfelt ballad, and "Juicy" is bluesy funk that even contains a snippet of rap. Not all of these explorations work (several fall surprisingly flat), and the recording quality makes the Bear's vocals sound thinner than they seem live. But his guitar still throws sparks--check "You Give Me the Blues"--and his sense of showmanship is as sharp as ever (available in area record stores). On Salome's Dance, Ava Pele delves into issues of gender, eroticism and loss on tracks like "Loveless Sex" ("Give your mannequin robotic pleasure"), "Teenage Prostitute" ("I'll take it like a man/Castrate my femininity") and "Biological Offspring" ("You didn't choose me/But you can feel me in your skin"). These are worthy topics, and Pele attacks them with gusto. But her singing is shaky, the music is awkward and the songs are often unlistenable. Maybe it's time for a raise (available in area record stores).
A treasure trove of vintage films featuring performances by Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, Louis Jordan and more, more, more will be featured at the Denver Jazz on Film Festival, to be held May 23-26 at the Acoma City Center. The event's director, Tom Goldsmith, warns that tickets are going fast--which, of course, you would expect him to say. To find out if he's exaggerating or telling the God's truth, phone 592-1168.
A package I received the other day from luh-nay, a group that includes Lynnae Rome and the members of Boulder's '76 Pinto, prompts a couple of tips for people submitting items for this space. Tip number one: Don't send something to a weekly newspaper the day before an event and expect it to appear in print--because it won't. Tip number two: Don't send something to me addressed "To Michael Mehle" and expect it to appear in print--because it won't.
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You can remember that, can't you? On Thursday, April 24, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones conclude a three-night run at the Fox; Ben Stevens gets lost at the Boulderado Hotel's Catacombs Bar; and Groove Kitchen cooks alongside Chitlin and DJ K-NEE at the Bluebird Theater. On Friday, April 25, Tequila Mockingbird is among the acts at a "battle of the bands" contest at Cricket on the Hill; Plop Squad storms Seven South; Westword contributor Marty Jones brings his Pork-Boilin' Po' Boys to the Breckenridge Tasting Room, 741 Kalamath; Richard Allen's One-Man Band gathers a crowd at Paris on the Platte; and the Bug Theater presents its First Annual Spring Love Show, featuring music from Arco Iris, the Carbon Dioxide Trio and many others (a reprise of the Show takes place in the same joint on Saturday). On Saturday, April 26, Jubilant Bridge leads to Acoustic Coffee in Nederland; the Foggy Mountain Fuckers climb to Slugger's, with Ralph Gean; Project 626 is on the shelf at the Cricket, with Morsel and Men or Monsters; Acoustic Food Chain sates its hunger at the Left Hand Grange Hall in Niwot, with Chris Engleman and Steve Ivy from the E-Town band; Phantom Freeway returns to Ziggie's; and the Dalhart Imperials, Sinshakers, Sizewell and Son of Sam stage a punk-vs.-rockabilly face-off at Area 39. On Sunday, April 27, Spahn Ranch keeps it all in the family at Seven South, with Statik Output; Jazz West swings at the Mercury Cafe; and Side o' Fries is served up at Penny Lane. And on Tuesday, April 29, bookers from the Fox, Ogden and Bluebird theaters will share their expertise at a panel discussion at Majordomos Net Cafe, 1401 Ogden Street. Where they can't dodge your phone calls.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com