This week on the music beat

By Rob Brunner
Updated April 13, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

ABOUT ‘FACE Not since ? & the Mysterians’ 1966 hit ”96 Tears” has punctuation caused such a stir. This time the artist in question is ? — at least that’s the credit on ”There She Goes,” a hard-driving R&B single recently sent to radio. So who’s the mystery man? None other than Babyface, who’s attempting a makeover for his first Arista album, due in July. ”We’re [thinking] nobody is going to believe this is Babyface,” says Arista exec Lionel Ridenour. ”His name would make programmers assume, ‘Oh, another ballad.’ This sets the tone for a reinvention.” Still, some radio execs are scoffing at the strategy. Jana Sutter of St. Louis’ KSLZ remained unaware of the ? single until Arista insisted she give it a listen. ”Honestly,” Sutter offers, ”if Babyface’s name is on a CD it’s going to get listened to a lot more than a no-name.”

RAP SHEET When Rage Against the Machine staged a concert in support of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1999, it prompted an outcry. Could a similar controversy be brewing around the case of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly known as Black Panther H. Rap Brown? A benefit for Al-Amin is set for May 12 in L.A., with hip-hoppers Mos Def, Jurassic 5, and Mystic performing. Unlike the convicted Abu-Jamal, Al-Amin has not yet faced trial (which begins in October), having pleaded not guilty to charges he shot and killed an Atlanta sheriff’s deputy on March 16, 2000. ”I don’t know a lot about the case,” says Jurassic 5’s Akil. ”I just know the brother’s character and legacy, and that speaks above the allegations.” Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, shrugs off such uninformed advocacy. ”If these artists don’t [know] the facts, it’s to a certain extent immaterial. The facts are what will find H. Rap Brown guilty or innocent.” Still, facts will likely give way to fiery rhetoric as the concert nears. ”[I’m not worried] if this becomes controversial,” says Akil. ”Just being a hip-hop artist is already controversial.”