by Anthony Gaye
What does Curtis Jackson (50 Cent) have in common with someone like John
McWhorter? You might be tempted to think that they have very little in
common. However, a closer look reveals that they are more alike than you
might think. John McWhorter, who received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from
Stanford University, is seemingly opposed to all things Hiphop. Curtis
Jackson is a Hiphop star that has sold millions of records. They have vastly
different backgrounds, and they lead very different lives. McWhorter likes
to rehash his story of being bullied because of his intellect while 50 Cent
likes to recount his tale of being shot nine times. What could they possibly
share in common? I’m glad you asked.
They both work for wealthy, white men. McWhorter is Manhattan Institute
Senior Fellow in Public Policy. The Manhattan Institute is a conservative
think tank that is chaired by Dietrich Weismann. Curtis Jackson works for
Interscope Records (Jimmy Iovine). You could quibble over some details.
Jackson is actually signed to a subsidiary of Interscope (Shady/Aftermath).
McWhorter makes a great deal as a so-called public intellectual. However, if
you follow the purse strings, then you’ll find that they ultimately lead to
wealthy, white men.
They are both known for their inflammatory rhetoric that can cause quite a
stir with African Americans. Last year, Jackson received some criticism for
reviving, or perhaps for reveling in the pimp image. 50 Cent raps in the
I don’t know what you heard about me,
but a chick can’t get a dollar out of me,
no Cadillac, no perms, you can’t see,
that I’m a mother!!ing P-I-M-P!
Not to be outdone, McWhorter constantly makes reference to a “cultural
disconnect” for African Americans. Ironically, McWhorter does not recognize
the disconnect between his own words and the reality of most black people.
50 Cent, on the other hand, does not care.
One could argue that they are both pawns. 50 Cent provides the means by
which white suburbanites can live out some perverse ghetto fantasy.
McWhorter grants them absolution for indulging in such fantasy. After all,
what role does white racism have to play in 50 Cent’s decision to promote
that image? They have both exploited a market made available to them by a
mainstream (read white) audience. John McWhorter found his niche by
recognizing that African Americans are typically[..]ociated with a liberal,
progressive agenda. Consequently, there is a greater space for conservative
voices. If he did not follow a conservative agenda, then he would most
likely toil in obscurity, not unlike many underground rappers. The ability
to curry favor with a mainstream audience is the incentive for black
conservatives. Does McWhorter actually believe his own inconsistent
rhetoric? Does 50 cent believe he’s actually keeping it real? I suppose it
depends on the person answering the question.
They both espouse individuality and personal responsibility. Unfortunately,
50 Cent rarely does this in his lyrics. He speaks of these issues only
insofar as it can deflect criticism away from him. For instance, he urges
parental responsibility, but does not acknowledge the possibility that his
music could affect this issue. McWhorter often conflates the issue of
personal responsibility with social responsibility.
They both serve a very similar function even though I doubt either one of
them would agree. Ultimately, it isn’t what they say that’s important. One
can always agree or disagree with them, or me. The most important thing is
that we create a space for dialogue in spite of them. We need to prevent the
hijacking of the debate by people who would profit from our misery. The
question isn’t who should speak for us, but if any one should speak for us