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Rapper Jay-Z Charged in 3 Assault Cases

December 04, 1999|GEOFF BOUCHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Grammy-winning rapper Jay-Z was arraigned Friday in New York on charges that he stabbed a record executive Wednesday night during an industry party at the Kit Kat Club in Manhattan. The rapper was also charged in two earlier assaults at other nightclubs.

The Brooklyn rapper, born Shawn Carter, turned himself in to police Thursday and was released Friday morning on $50,000 bail on first-degree assault charges, a court clerk said.

The most recent of the three assaults is the Wednesday knife attack on Lance "Un" Rivera, president of Untertainment Records. A Manhattan Criminal Court complaint says Jay-Z slashed Rivera's abdomen and stabbed him "more than once in the back with a knife."

Jay-Z was also charged in two other attacks, both involving victims who were hit in the head with bottles in separate incidents, one a week ago at the Kit Kat Club and the other in 1998 at another New York bar, the Carbon Club, according to New York police Det. George Nagy. In all, the rapper was arraigned on six assault and weapon charges for the three incidents.

Jay-Z is among the best-selling acts on today's music scene. His "Vol. II . . . Hard Knock Life," won a Grammy earlier this year for best rap album. It has been a major hit for Seagram-owned Def Jam Records, selling more than 4.5 million copies since its October 1998 release. Jay-Z also co-headlined this year's "Hard Knock Life" concert tour, which has been hailed for achieving commercial and critical success that has defied most national rap tours.

His albums--and the persona he has presented in his part-time career as an actor--are steeped in the "thug life" imagery that is popular with rap fans but draws the wrath of critics who question its portrayals of women, street crime and drugs. The rapper has acknowledged that he was involved in criminal enterprises in his younger days but says his music is a commentary intended to reach out to young people now in similar situations.

An attorney for Jay-Z said Friday that, despite the street hustler posturing evoked by Jay-Z's albums, the rapper is not a violent person.

"He's soft, he's nice, very respectful . . . he's a good guy and he couldn't have done this," said Harvey Slovis, a criminal attorney who also recently represented Sean "Puffy" Combs and rocker Tommy Lee. "To think he could do this--it's crazy."

Jay-Z's arrest is just the latest in a series of criminal cases involving some of the biggest names in the rap world. Combs, DMX, Snoop Dogg and the late Tupac Shakur are just some of the superstars who have found themselves in court in recent years facing charges of violent crimes.

The Wednesday confrontation may have been triggered by a glut of bootleg copies of Jay-Z's forthcoming album that have hit the underground market and the rapper's belief that Rivera may have been involved, according to an industry insider and reports in New York newspapers.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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