Not too long ago, 50 Cent appeared on NBC’s Today show to promote his upcoming book. It’s not an autobiographical tale chronicling the underbelly of South Side Queens, or urban fiction in the vein of Iceberg Slim. It’s a young adult novel about bullying entitled Playground. The Interview clip features an articulate and formally dressed Curtis Jackson purporting his book to be a solution to one of childhood’s most common dilemmas. Anyone who has been following 50 Cent’s career from its start can’t help but to note a certain irony in all of this. A man who once relished the role of Hip-Hop’s most infamous bully, now speaks out against a phenomenon that he had long been a proponent of. Such a development brings to mind a number of questions. Is this change of heart sincere? Even if it is, does 50 deserve to be taken seriously considering his public persona? More importantly, does Hip-Hop consider bullying to be a real problem?
Quiet as it’s kept, Hip-Hop has a fine tradition of tolerating and even celebrating bullies. Look no further than many of Hip-Hop’s most fabled battles and rivalries for evidence. 2Pac publicly balked at the idea that he employed bullying tactics in his relentless campaign against B.I.G. and Bad Boy. Either way, his fans cheered him on, buying hook, line, and sinker into the idea that B.I.G deserved it seeing as how he betrayed his former friend. They seemed to accept Pac’s take on the situation as gospel truth, never considering that he may have fabricated certain elements for theatrical purposes. His fans seemed to derive some kind of sadistic pleasure out of the whole thing. The questionable morality of such actions didn’t seem to be a factor.
That is but the biggest example, but it goes much deeper than that. Hip-Hop’s infatuation with gangsterism evidences a similar indifference to the suffering that bullies inflict. What are street gangs and organized criminals if not bullies of the highest order? Such types take the very concept of bullying to its logical conclusion. They carve up entire cities amongst themselves, implementing “rules” upon the citizenry which are often enforced by way of the gun. They wage bloody wars which exact heavy civilian casualties and cause property values to plummet. How many rappers have emulated such types over the years, adopting their personas, monikers and even life stories? Then there are the rappers who take bully worship many steps farther, paying tribute to dictators and terrorists such as Idi Amin Dada and even Osama Bin Laden.
Even though Hip-Hops infatuation with gangsters has largely subsided as of late, I suspect there are still some who will likely paint 50’s latest venture as a thinly veiled publicity stunt from a has been who doesn’t want to accept that his 15 minutes have long been up. I can hear it now: “If it really means that much to him, why wasn’t he talking this shit back he was actually relevant?” The obvious truth they refuse to accept is that people change, often according to their circumstances. It was easy for Fif to prey on others when he had nothing to lose. Now he has everything to live for, and his old value system no longer holds up. No one should remain in state of stunted growth just to protect a public image that was largely fabricated to begin with.
Even those who acknowledge 50’s efforts as genuine have yet another card to play, if they truly wish to undermine him. There is a way of thinking that suggests that Americans have grown too soft, that our nation has embraced victimhood as a way of life. People who subscribe to such thinking probably feel, on some level, that kids who are bullied should simply suck it up and learn to fight back. Well, having the will to fight back and having the actual means and opportunity to do so are often two different things. Just ask any American who lives in a gang neighborhood, or anyone living under the rule of a malevolent dictator. 50 has always done his own thing regardless of what his detractors think, and God bless him for it. Perhaps at 36 years of age, Curtis feels that it’s finally time to lay the bad guy to rest.
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