Friday, May 18, 2007

50 Cent Won't Clean Up His Lyrics, Punks Master P; TI Agrees

50 Cent

50 Cent has issued a characteristic response to the recent movement to "clean up hip-hop", with artists such as Master P changing their game.

In response to questions about others demanding artists to clean up their lyrics, 50 quipped: "I personally believe on every level that it's easier to attack an individual than it is to go after a corporation. They'll go after a specific hip-hop artist as opposed to a Paramount or a Columbia Pictures.

"Music is a mirror, and hip-hop is a reflection of the environment that we grew up in. It's the harsh realities that end up in the music. If I ask you to paint a picture of the American flag and not use the color red, you're gonna have a difficult time. To capture what we try to capture in the art form, I'm sure some conservative Americans can't actually ID with it because of their lifestyle and the way they've actually been brought up, and they haven't been exposed to those realities."

I appreciate that 50 Cent is standing up and presenting a valid argument for what he is doing, rather than dismissing it with a wave of the hand or lashing out. What 50 seems to miss is that one can reflect the environment they grew up in without sensationalizing those realities, and one can paint an American flag in an abstract manner with other colors, or with just black on white canvas, and still get the point across. The flag is an icon, it will be recognizable no matter what color it is painted in. Further, there are plenty of Americans, conservative, liberal or otherwise, who can identify and who cannot identify, regardless of their upbringing. Some folks grow up in tough places, both emotionally and geographically. But not all of those folks sensationalize that upbringing.

It is certainly important to create a historic record of these realities. Corporations, as 50 mentions them, have capitalized on the cycle of violence, lining their pockets with hip-hop money, and so has 50. Society will go to the individuals at the front lines over the corporation because the corporation is an intangible. It is much easier to blame the artist, though both the artist and the corporation are of unclean hands. I support 50's right to say what he wants, and he's lived a life that allows him to rap about his reality with authority.

50 also went at Master P during his commentary: "Well, Master P doesn't sell CDs anymore," he scoffed. "You can tell him I said it. Cameras is rollin' right?...Curtis, June 26." You heard it. June 26.

T.I. joined the fray with good points of his own. "What 50 was trying to put into words without losing his temper is it all starts at home. I'm a father of five. And my kids watch BET. They watch all kinds of videos, they watch movies, they listen to music, they like 50 and Lil' Wayne, whomever you can mention. But when my children look at these videos or listen to this music, I don't care how impressionable it is. They know they aren't going to have to deal with 50. They're going to have to deal with daddy. And that's the way it starts."

Continuing, T.I. said, "The things I say come from the life that I used to live."

Good words, but T.I. confirms the only point I keep returning to in my own battle with what kind of hip-hop to listen to: the life he used to live. Rappers tend to rap about their realities. Well, T.I., 50 Cent, your realities are now full of cars and money, and you're selling your past back to both those who do and do not understand that reality. I've seen you both on "Cribs." You've got it all. Rap about what your reality is now. Don't keep returning to the same stuff that you were lucky enough to break free of. Let's look forward a little bit instead of always looking backward. Rap about how important it is to look to the future and a chance to get out of these harsh realities that will always be a part of you. I'm not saying on every song, just some. Give your fans something they can look forward to, strive towards. Most of us aren't going to be huge commercial rappers like you. We're going to have to find other ways to change our situations.

Hip-hop, like any kind of music, is a wonderful thing. It's a creative outlet, and emotionally cathartic form of escapism, and many other positive things. In the end, the artist can, and should, have the right to say what they want on their record. But music is always involving. The climate changes. Artists grow and their world view becomes more complex. Let's get political, get sociological. People are growing tired of the status quo of hearing the same message in any form of music. Challenge the listener to dissect the complexity of the work. Be a part of the evolution.

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