Fear of fresh 'rap wars' after Dr Dre is punched at awards ceremony

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The Independent US

A hip-hop music awards ceremony erupted in chaos after the rap pioneer Dr Dre was punched in the face as he was waiting to receive a lifetime achievement award.

A hip-hop music awards ceremony erupted in chaos after the rap pioneer Dr Dre was punched in the face as he was waiting to receive a lifetime achievement award.

His bodyguards set on the attacker and in the ensuing brawl chairs were thrown and a man was stabbed. Police in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, where the awards show was held on Monday night, had to summon reinforcements from other law enforcement agencies to restore order.

The attack has provoked fears that the so-called "rap wars" between rival bands of rappers may be breaking out again after having been dormant for several years. Also at the awards was the rap impresario Marion "Suge" Knight, a former gang member and convict who runs Death Row Records and who is involved in a well-documented feud with Dr Dre. Mr Knight later said he had had nothing to do with the mêlée. Police have refused to comment on who may have been involved.

The Vibe awards, named after the magazine that celebrates hip-hop and other urban music, were being taped for television broadcast when the violence broke out. Dr Dre, whose real name is Andre Young, was sitting at a front-row table being introduced by the composer Quincy Jones and the rap artist Snoop Dogg before receiving a Vibe Legend Award from the magazine.

According to a witness, a man walked up to Dr Dre's table and punched him in the face. Dr Dre's bodyguards then went after the attacker and a 26-year-old man was stabbed. He was taken to hospital where he is in stable condition.

Death Row Records became a powerhouse in the record industry with its gangsta rap and the signings of stars such as Snoop Dogg. Mr Knight and Dr Dre later had a falling out that resulted in Dr Dre leaving the company and founding his own label, Aftermath.

Aftermath, which signed such stars as Eminem and Snoop, has since been hugely successful while Death Row has languished.

Mr Knight was jailed in 1996 for an assault which violated his probation on a previous assault charge. He served five years, and after he was released in 2001 Dr Dre obtained a court order to keep Mr Knight away from him and forbade the Death Row chief from being in the same room with his former partner. Stories of Mr Knight's alleged strongarm tactics, intimidation and brutality are well-known in rap circles. He was involved in the long-running feud between Los Angeles-based Death Row and the New York-based record company Bad Boy Entertainment, a feud that divided the rap industry and led to a brawl at the MTV awards in New York.

In 1992 he was sued by Eazy-E, a rap star and founder of NWA (Niggaz With Attitude) who later died of Aids, who claimed Mr Knight had threatened him with baseball bats and pipes during a contract dispute. Mr Knight reportedly boasted of making a record-company president get on his hands and knees and "walk around like a dog".

Mr Knight was investigated by the federal authorities after his star rapper, Tupac Shakur, who had announced his intention to leave Death Row, was shot dead in Las Vegas while a passenger in Mr Knight's car.

The killing sparked almost immediate retaliation and Biggie Smalls, otherwise known as Notorious BIG, the giant rap star of the Bad Boy label, was gunned down outside a Los Angeles club. Neither murder has been solved.

Violence and rap have long gone hand in hand and many of hard-core rap's biggest stars have either served time in jail or had their lives ended on the streets. But they and other gangsta rappers who extol the virtues of "bullets, bitches and 40-ounce beers" have been idolised as urban heroes and the ghetto lifestyles projected in their lyrics and videos have become standards for millions of young Americans, both black and white.

Snoop Dog publicly rejected his gangsta lifestyle while he was in jail after being arrested on murder-conspiracy charges. He was later acquitted and his album, Murder Was The Case, hit the charts at No 1.

Dr Dre, now a respected record company boss, was arrested after a police chase in 1994 and served five months in a halfway house for violating probation on assault charges.

Before his murder Tupac Shakur was arrested for possessing guns, attacking a video director and committing assault and battery. He served jail time for sexual abuse and was shot five times while being robbed outside a Manhattan recording studio.