Ballot Box

Gore’s Favorite Gangsta

As Bill Bradley digs for inconsistencies in Al Gore’s record, he might want to check out his opponent’s evolving double standard on the issue of violence in music. The vice president, whose wife started a famous crusade against explicit lyrics, frequently criticizes the irresponsible behavior of entertainment-industry executives who profit from incitements to mayhem. Meanwhile, he’s touting an endorsement from a gun-toting rap star.

The rapper is Wyclef Jean, a former member of the Fugees and now a solo artist. In an interview that aired Monday on HOT 97, a popular black-oriented radio station in New York, Gore was asked about his musical tastes. He told D.J. Angie Martinez that in addition to rock and country-and-western, he’s a fan of Wyclef as well as of Fugees co-founder Lauryn Hill.

“Wyclef Jean just endorsed me,” Gore noted.

“He did?” Martinez responded in astonishment.

“Absolutely,” Gore said. “I’d like to give him a shout out.”

“You’re getting a lot of cool points right now,” said Martinez.

As a fan, Gore must surely be aware that the Haitian-born musician has been known to react badly when he does not get important endorsements himself. Very badly. Gore should give a shout out to Jesse Washington, the founding editor of the hip-hop magazine Blaze. In August 1998, Washington was summoned to see Wyclef at the Hit Factory, a Sony recording studio in New York. The reason for the summons was that Wyclef had been given an advance copy of the magazine’s critical review of a record he produced for a rap artist called Canibus.

As Washington recalled in a phone interview, he arrived at the studio to find Wyclef drinking vodka and surrounded by his posse, some of whom were described as Tontons Macoute thugs from Haiti. Wyclef indicated to Washington that in his opinion it would be unfair to publish the review because the Canibus record was unfinished. Wyclef then underscored his point by waving around a 9-mm. pistol and sticking it in Washington’s chest.

After the incident was reported in the press, Wyclef denied it, unconvincingly, on MTV. “Wyclef Jean pulls no gun,” he said. “Wyclef Jean plays guitars.” Washington wrote about what happened in Blaze but never went to the police–though he did subsequently press charges against some other rap gangsters who beat him bloody because they were unhappy with a story.

“The main problem is guns,” Gore told Martinez earlier in the HOT 97 interview, when she asked about his views on hip-hop and Tipper’s crusade against violent lyrics. “We’ve got to get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

Such as his supporter Wyclef Jean, for example?

“I don’t know anything about the guy,” said Gore spokesman Chris Lehane. “We deplore any use of guns. You should call Sarah Brady.”

Says Jesse Washington: “I guess Wyclef doesn’t agree with Bill Bradley’s position on gun control.”