In the April issue of Playboy, the multimillion-selling rapper states, "I ain't into [expletive]," using a familiar antigay epithet. "I don't like gay people around me, because I'm not comfortable with what their thoughts are."
He goes on to say: "It's OK to write that I'm prejudiced. This is as honest as I could possibly be with you." In the same interview, 50 acknowledges his mother was bisexual and asserts, "But women who like women, that's cool."
With gay marriage -- and President Bush's endorsement of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage -- positioned as hot-button issues in this presidential election year, I'd like to think that gay and lesbian rights activists will have better things to do than waste time jousting with some thick-headed pop star drooling stupidity and hate.
Then again, this isn't just about 50 Cent spewing the homophobic company line of his mentor Eminem, who has long courted controversy and sold millions with antigay rhymes for the masses, especially on his 2000 CD, "The Marshall Mathers LP." It's about 50 Cent proving yet again that he's a detriment to the public image of African-American manhood.
And yes, the evocation of race is intentional. Since his debut, "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " dropped a year ago, 50 Cent has parlayed every toxic stereotype of black men into chart-topping success. He's a misogynist. He's a gun-happy fool doing his part to extol black-on-black violence. He's a cartoon character playing into white society's fears and fascinations with the perceived black urban male menace. Without anything new or interesting to say, his whole shtick consists of presenting himself as a violent, destructive force and cold-hearted pimp, whose primary power is scaring the mess out of people.
On his album cover, 50 glowers through a window presumably shattered by a bullet. Throughout the CD, gunshots are frequent sound effects accenting rhymes in which 50 is threatening or enacting street justice. In the CD booklet, a snarling 50 points a gun directly at the camera. It's a carefully calibrated image common in mainstream rap, but as practiced by 50, it's devoid of the nuance, introspection, and talent that made Nas, Tupac, and Biggie legends.
Even before the silly but undeniably catchy "In Da Club" became an inescapable club and radio hit, 50 Cent was sold as the realest of the real. Press agents working overtime let it be known that 50, born Curtis Jackson, had done time, was a former crack dealer, and had been shot nine times -- as if a rap sheet has anything to do with being a worthwhile rapper. In interviews, 50 even showed off his bullet wounds.
He fought on wax and in the media with fellow Queens rapper Ja Rule, a still-simmering beef that seemed pathetic and cheap, if only because Ja Rule was such an easy target. (Notice 50 has made nice with the real king of New York hip-hop, Jay-Z. After 50's 1999 underground hit, "How to Rob" featured lyrics threatening Jay-Z and other well-established artists, Jay responded at a concert with a put-down. 50 has uttered nary a discouraging word about Jay-Z since.)
Meanwhile, the public bought into 50 Cent, making "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " one of the best-selling releases of 2003. He was nominated for a bunch of Grammys (though he went home empty-handed), and is now considered one of the biggest rappers in the world. And with a tape recorder or a microphone in his face, he again lands somewhere beneath our lowest expectations.
Wouldn't it have been remarkable if 50 had told Playboy that he has no problem with gay folks, or that he believes people should just be allowed to live their lives? Instead, like the dopey caricature he is, he never veers from the script, reciting his homophobic rant perfectly. In his small, reductive world, a man can't be tolerant of gays any more than he can show respect for women.
In 1915, when director D.W. Grif
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