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Rap Feud Prompts Universal to Cancel Party, Sources Say

February 04, 2003|Chuck Philips | Times Staff Writer

Universal Music Group, the world's largest record company, has pulled the plug on its gala post-Grammy Awards party because of concerns that violence might erupt between rival rappers, sources said.

The move marks the first time a major music firm has canceled a Grammy bash. It comes during great change in an industry beset by declining sales, piracy, cost cutting and firings.

The firm, a unit of Vivendi Universal, declined to comment. But sources said company executives were responding not just to cost pressures but to fears that a feud between Brooklyn rapper 50 Cent and hip-hop entrepreneur Irv Gotti, chief of the Murder Inc. label, could spill over into a violent altercation that might endanger partygoers.

The two hip-hop figures have been at odds for nearly three years, since 50 Cent recorded a song mocking rappers tied to Gotti. In March 2000, police arrested Gotti and two other men on charges of gang assault after a fight at a Manhattan recording studio in which 50 Cent was stabbed, records show. Two months later, 50 Cent was shot nine times. No one has been prosecuted for either crime.

Last year, 50 Cent turned down an offer from Gotti to sign with Murder Inc., a partner of Universal's Def Jam division. He chose instead to sign with rap stars Eminem and Dr. Dre and will release his new CD this week on their Shady/Aftermath label, which is distributed by Universal's Interscope division.

The party, scheduled for Feb. 23, was expected to cost about $500,000 -- at least a portion of which now will be donated to charity, sources at Universal said Monday.

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