‘So Come give me a hug’ – what a nice line, clearly Mr 50 Cent is a pleasant cuddly fella.
As I think I’ve ranted about before I got into hip hop through Def Jam and all those fabulous leftfield acts like DC Basehead, Digable Planets and The Pharcyde, everything was groovy, mixed and far out and then almost overnight it all seemed to turn to crud – real lowest common denominator, low-imagination crap. So I stopped following it and diverted my energies elsewhere, but every so often something would catch my ear, sometimes I even bought it.
50 Cent In Da Club was one of those. I know on one level it’s boastful, simplistic, brash nonsense but on the other it is just one hell of a tune. Dr Dre really weaves his magic on this one, the beats bass and strings combo is just absolutely Grade A brilliant. When I listen to this track it’s always the bass* I pick up on far more than the words, I genuinely get a real buzz from it. I think 50 Cent has got a decent voice and, umm, flow** but nothing special, nothing that to my ears marks him out for the megastar he became.
Lyrics? hmm, on one level its all just X-rated fun and games, white liberal, borderline-feminist, parent that I am I can find plenty to dislike if I’m in the mood to dissect it and maybe I should do, but apart from the range of its’ influence, is this track any different than watching any gangster film out there? or any depiction of fun immorality? or should I just jig about some more? but one thing I would say is that growing up tough where I did^ I can totally relate to the need to front up and smack down any sucka who fronts on you. When 50 Cent raps,
If you watch how I move, you’ll mistake me for a playa or pimp
Been hit wit’ a few shells, but I don’t walk wit’ a limp
He could have been talking about me in my hood. I don’t like to talk about those bad days, especially nothing too criminal you understand, I don’t wanna end up doing a 5 stretch; but that day when my brother threw all those seashells at me, hell I think I’m still carrying a piece in my leg.
Seriously though folks there is a wider issue here and one that people do shy away from, hip-hop artists do seem to be given a pass for sexism and violence why? Especially all those awful T and A videos. I’ve heard commentators and artists say, or imply, ‘it’s just a ghetto thing’, is it? does that make it right? am I qualified to discuss it? yeah I’m human so I am and no, its not right and I think to call it a ‘ghetto thing’ (and by implication a ‘black thing’) is both demeaning and inaccurate, but no-one ever seems to go bust pandering collectively to our worst traits. Is it any worse than all those hair metal bands (sexism) and thrashers out there (violence)? yes and no. One possible difference is simply one of scale, hip hop still sells gazillions, it is wider-reaching and far more influential than almost all other genres put together; as a wise man^^ once said ‘with great sales, comes great responsibility’.
We always have, but why the hell look to artists as role models anyway? I certainly don’t want my son or daughter assimilating the casual sexism, in particular, that so much hip-hop pedals indiscriminately. I also wonder whether this is simply another strand of the same argument which has been run by concerned Caucasians ever since black music was allowed to un-ghettoise itself, a fear of a certain kind of raw un-European sexuality. Hell, this game has been going on a lot longer than that, check out Brabantio’s fear of Othello’s love for Desdemona and the swaggering tales of skirmishes and exotica which he used to win her over in Othello. It’s a complex set of issues, but luckily for you and society in general I do have all the answers and will therefore be in a position to right all the relevant societal ills shortly.
But first I just want to suspend my belief and dance to this killer track and pretend I’ve got washboard abs like 50 Cent, but only after you give me a hug.
*played by the really rather talented Mike Elizondo and thus providing the, very necessary, link between 50 Cent and Mastodon (he produced The Hunter).
**as I believe more hip-hop-literate people than I call it.
^^hint – lots of records, owns lots of Lego.