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Tour a show of rap unity


The "Up in Smoke" tour, featuring Dr. Dre and some of the biggest names in West Coast rap, has been working its way across the country this summer. And despite concerns expressed by some music industry pundits when the tour was announced, gangsta rap onstage hasn't resulted in violence offstage; audiences have peacefully enjoyed the show's flashy production and nonstop string of hits. In short, "Up in Smoke" has been going like a house on fire.

What went right?

"I think the artists have a responsibility to set the tone," says Xzibit, one of the rappers on the tour. "Everybody's keeping a real tight ship." The "Up in Smoke" tour, which includes some of the biggest names in hip-hop - Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Eminem, Warren G and others - visits Baltimore tonight.

"We're putting on such a good show that if you come even thinking about causing problems, you're so focused on the stage that you forget about everything," Xzibit says.

It isn't just professionalism that keeps the show running smoothly. As Xzibit explains, the fact that all the performers have a strong relationship with Dr. Dre gives the artists a sense of belonging.

"When Dre dropped his 'Chronic 2001' album, he just wanted to bring out people who were involved in the recording and production of the album, and also he wanted to bring out artists that were associated with him," he says.

Xzibit, for instance, recorded with Dre, Snoop and Eminem, and performs with each at points in the show. "I'm energetic," says the rapper. "I'm all across the stage. I'm Hyper-Man, you know what I'm saying? I just do my thing regardless of whoever I'm with: Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop, whoever."

But that's not a problem, because there isn't any sense of competition among the performers. "We're all family out here," he says. "It's a whole lot of love out here, man."

That attitude has proven particularly helpful to the show's opening act, Eminem. Since his "The Marshall Mathers LP" was released two months ago, the album has stayed at the top of the charts - and Eminem has stayed in the media spotlight. Between complaints from gay and feminist groups about the album's content, his own arrest on weapons and assault charges near Detroit, and his wife's attempted suicide, Eminem has been a magnet for controversy in recent weeks. "It seems like once you get on any kind of mass media's bad side, you are like free-range chicken," Xzibit says, laughing. "It's like open season on you."

Fortunately, the fact that both Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg endured similar controversy early in their careers, with Dr. Dre being put under house arrest after being convicted on assault charges while Snoop was acquitted on an accessory to murder rap, means that Eminem is at least able to get some perspective on his problems."I'm pretty sure they're laying some knowledge on him, some insight on how to handle it," Xzibit says.

"Everybody is pretty much taking care of the whole situation from the inside. I mean, it's no problem back here with us. Everybody knows what Eminem's going through right now, but all we can do is continue to be who we are to him, which is friends and family."

'Up in Smoke'

Featuring: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Eminem, Warren G and others

When: Tonight, 7 p.m.

Where: Baltimore Arena

Tickets: $45 and $35

Call: 410-481-7328

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