A little over a week ago, I had the rare occasion to catch 20/20 with Juju Chang. I am hardly ever up at that hour of the evening, given that my day light hours are spent directing the raucous circus that is my home.
As soon as my ancient television finished booting up that evening, I was greeted with the sight of 50 Cent in a button down shirt in a village. Ei. It looked like Africa. Well I’ll be. 50 Cent had travelled to Somalia!
I was intrigued – mesmerized almost. I’m not accustomed to American rappers traveling to Africa to do good, although many do. We just rarely hear about it. A few years ago I remember reading about Wu Tang Clan’s visit to West Africa and their being affected by the sight of orphaned children with missing limbs – limbs that had been chopped off by savage war lords during the Sierra Leone conflict. One of the members of the group refused to get out of the vehicle for the visit.
“I ain’t going in there man. I ain’t.”
I can’t remember who it was that uttered those words, but I clearly read the pain in his quote. He couldn’t bear the sight of children who had had so much brutally ripped from them in a war that they had no control over. It’s enough to break the hardest of men down.
So I was pleased to see Fiddy in Africa. I took it as a sign that he is maturing, and I cheer unabashedly any time a Black man takes strides to grow up. Apparently, the purveyors of popular culture aren’t so eager to see this side of our most prolific hip-hop entertainers.
“Don’t you worry that your fans will not embrace this side of you?” asked the reporter that was trailing 50. “Won’t it affect your image?”
He referenced at least three times (that I counted) that 50 had been shot 9 times, had it dramatized in film, and came from a very gritty past. This was his image, after all, and showing a softer side my corrode that.
He replied that he didn’t care what his fans are willing to accept, in terms of his charity work.
“I want to be more, not just an artist, but as a person,” 50 Cent said. “My legacy, what’s left behind, I don’t want to be a guy who’s just remembered for writing a few decent songs.”
I smiled in the darkness. My pleasure was immediately snatched from me when this utterance was dismissed as a “midlife crisis” from “hip-hop’s Bono.” With all due respect to Bono, he does not have a monopoly on kindness and philanthropy. Is 50 Cent not a man? Does he not possess the right to reinvent, hell, even improve himself as he sees fit? Is he always to remain 50 Cent the gangster, the womanizer, the boy ne’er does well?
I never thought that I would find myself sympathizing with 50 Cent of all people. I recently had the opportunity to interview with Radio Netherlands Worldwide. My Nana Darkoa (my BFFFL) and I were asked to discuss our Adventures blog. It came up that I was married to a man with a position in the church, and there was consternation concerning a supposed “double life” I was leading. (I don’t broadcast that I write for a sex and relationship blog within the four walls of my church, you understand.)
“Aren’t you bothered by this double life you’re leading?” asked Jonathan, the interviewer.
“Uh…no,” I replied simply. “I’m a very complex human being, you see.”
He laughed, and I joined him. What I really wanted to say was: “Puh-leeze. Have you been to a Southern church lately? They’re all crawling with children. Don’t let Christians try to convince you that we’re not having sex! I’m just writing about the sex that they ARE having.”
Good thing I have a modicum of restraint.
The bottom line is that we have to allow people the freedom to grow and change. That’s what separates us from animals. The problem with Africans – and their descendants in the Diaspora – is that for so long we have not been allowed to define our culture or personhood for ourselves. So when a church going woman with a deacon husband, four kids and an old CR-V writes sensual fiction for a blog about African women, foreign entities are confused. The proper place for this woman is in quiet repose, reading her Bible and serving her husband. And when a rapper from a broken home and a violent past eschews the calamity of that history and uses his wits and fortune to do good, it is alarming to those same entities. This is not the script that the world has designed for either character!
Screw your script.
Happy Independence Day.