Racial jealousy may have been motive behind shooting of DJ

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The Independent Online
THE BBC Radio 1 rap DJ Tim Westwood was under guard in hospital yesterday after beinginjured in a drive-by shooting in south London.

The attack, which echoed murderous shootings of famous American rappers, occurred in daylight, at 8.40pm on Sunday, as the DJ sat behind the wheel of his four-wheel-drive at a busy junction on Kennington Park Road. Two men on a red motorcycle pulled up alongside Mr Westwood's vehicle and fired at close range through the tinted windows.

The 30-year-old DJ, from Fulham, south-west London, and five passengers in the car, members of his Justice Productions crew, were hurt, four of them cut by flying glass. They were taken to St Thomas' hospital, south London, where Mr Westwood underwent surgery for a bullet wound to his arm. He is expected to be released today.

His assistant, Ross Newman, was treated for a bullet wound to the leg.

The shooting sent shockwaves through the UK hip hop scene, which has largely avoided the gun-related incidents that are so prevalent in the lyrical content of the music.

In the United States, where rap is a multi-million-dollar industry, the willingness to settle disputes at the point of a gun has led to the premature deaths of some of the genre's greatest exponents, including Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.

Mr Westwood left school at 16 and found work on pirate radio stations before making his name as a co-founder of Kiss FM and then as a star DJ on Capital Radio. He was poached by Radio 1 as part of the former controller Matthew Bannister's attempts to make the station more youth friendly.

Yesterday, speculation was rife in the music industry as to how Mr Westwood could have become a target for a gunman. Certainly he had become the subject of jealousy and resentment among sections of the rap fraternity, having risen to what one music journalist described yesterday as "by a very wide margin, the most influential person in British hip hop".

His Friday and Saturday night shows on national radio have given him access to an audience way beyond the means of other rap DJs.

Because Mr Westwood is white, some hip hop followers believe he has been given opportunities denied to those they regard as more talented black DJs who, they claim, are more skilled on the turntables. Two years ago, the American rap star KRS-One made a guest appearance on Mr Westwood's show and warned him of the simmering discontent in some quarters of the British rap scene. The rap writer Fusion, who works for the black music paper Echoes, said: "There are people who resent his position as pretty much the best-known figurehead for British hip hop in the States."

He said Mr Westwood's supporters point to two decades of dedicated work in the rap business, which has won him great admiration across the Atlantic.

Mr Westwood is also credited with using his position at Radio 1 to boost the sales of rap CDs by forcing them on to the station's daytime playlist.

Through his competition, Talent 2000, he gave young British artists the chance to besigned by the legendary New York record company, Def Jam.

But despite his best efforts, resentment has remained. He was reportedly attacked and threatened last winter when he appeared at a bowling alley in south London.

Some reports yesterday linked the drive-by shooting with similar attacks, which have in recent weeks claimed the lives of a music promoter, a doorman and a sound engineer working in the reggae industry.

Mr Westwood, as part of his expanding empire, is loosely connected to the reggae scene through his music contacts and as the owner of the company that produces the Radio 1 reggae show.

Last night Scotland Yard detectives were appealing for witnesses who saw the two motorcyclists in multi-coloured helmets speeding off erratically in the direction of the Elephant and Castle district after the attack. A Yard spokeswoman said it was not known whether the shots were fired by the motorcycle driver or his pillion. Detectives believe the weapon used was some kind of handgun. "We are keeping an open mind on the motive and have not ruled anything out," the spokeswoman said.

The DJ had just finished playing at Lambeth country festival in Brockwell Park, south London. Speaking through an agent last night, he said: "I thank God I'm alive and that everyone has survived."

But in a music form that demands its heroes live a hard-knock existence known to rappers as "keeping it real", a bullet scar will not have done Mr Westwood's credibility any harm. As Stephen Worthy, of Ministry magazine, pointed out: "Some people might think there is a certain amount of cachet in his being shot - although I am not sure that he would see it that way."

Sudden death in the macho world of rap

NOTORIOUS B.I.G.

(left) Born Christopher Wallace, grew up in New York, where he was a crack dealer before finding an escape in rap music. Got involved in a rap-scene feud and died, aged 24, in a hail of bullets as he left a party in California in March 1997.

TUPAC SHAKUR

Born New York, the son of Black Panther Afeni Shakur. Moved to California, joined growing West Coast rap scene. His life mirrored his macho lyrics. Shot, at the age of 25, as he left a Mike Tyson heavyweight title fight in September 1996.

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