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Hear & Now

This week on the music beat

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Authors, Guns, And Money Warren Zevon has always seemed well-read, so it’s no surprise his new album features collaborations with some literary lights. My Ride’s Here, due May 7, includes songs Zevon cowrote with Carl Hiaasen (Strip Tease), Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), Mitch Albom (Tuesdays With Morrie), and Irish poet Paul Muldoon. ”Carl’s my best friend, and, as you might have imagined, Hunter and I knew each other,” says Zevon. In a bit of canny cross marketing, the Hiaasen track shares its title, ”Basket Case,” with the author’s current best-seller. The Thompson tune, ”You’re a Whole Different Person When You’re Scared,” grew out of something the gonzo journalist said to Zevon ”on our way to a police confrontation [over a death-row inmate]. I said, ‘I guess we can look forward to rubber bullets and all that ’60s stuff,’ and he said, ‘You’re a whole different person when you’re scared.”’ Aside from their clout, Zevon explains the real reason he teamed up with the writers is simple: ”I’m lazy.” Poor, poor pitiful he.

Bitter Tweet When R&B newcomer Ashanti‘s self-titled debut sold 503,000 copies last week, entering at No. 1 on the albums chart and becoming the biggest first week for a female artist’s debut in SoundScan history, it took many by surprise (see review on page 148). But for label insiders, it was the climax of a showdown between Def Jam’s Ashanti and Elektra’s soul rookie (and Missy Elliott protegee) Tweet, who moved 195,000 CDs that same week and landed at No. 3. According to a source, when Elektra chief Sylvia Rhone learned in February that both albums would drop April 16, she called Def Jam head Lyor Cohen demanding he change Ashanti‘s release date and insisting Tweet would come out on top (Rhone denies making the call). Cohen refused, and after a flurry of exchanges in which neither backed down, he ordered his staff into overdrive. The label worked deals to sell Ashanti for $8.99 at many stores and pushed her single ”Foolish” on radio. In the end, Ashanti, who made an impact with cameos on Ja Rule and Fat Joe songs, soared over Tweet. Can’t wait for round two.