Wednesday, July 06, 2005

50 cent - trickster or lyrical genius?

  1. This is yet another article written by a bewildered desi on the subject of urban/hip-hop culture in America.
  2. The article itself was thawed from cold storage, after I noticed the blog was dying. So, don't expect the usual high quality you have come to expect from this blog. Okay, now you know which way the rest of this post is going...

If you think 50 Cent is a certain amount of currency, or if you think that "In Da Club" is bad spelling for In The Club, then you are possibly a hermit crab living under an impossibly large rock.

50 Cent was my rather brisk initiation into the world of hip-hop and gangsta rap. The no-nonsense, in-your-face lyrics (e.g., Sir Mix-A-Lot happily proclaiming "I like big butts", and 50 Cent crooning "I'm just a squirrel lookin' for a slut with a nice butt, to get a nut") are a refreshing change from the sappy, unlikely ballads of other genres. That is, if you can make out the lyrics. These guys keep it real. And 50 Cent is, in my opinion, the most artful exponent of this genre. Okay, may be Snoop "Doggy" Dogg is up there too, but this sort of thing is exactly what feeds the East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry. Gangsta rappers are also the cowboys of our times, who shoot each other not with guns (well, okay... not only with guns), but with stinging lyrics. Recording studios like Aftermath (Dr Dre's creation), Death Row etc. play the part of dusty alleyways. At the end of the day, a handsome paycheck awaits, too.

So, there I was, quietly enjoying my 50 Cent records, when I came across this Slate article. According to the article, 50 Cent is just a wily, scheming thug from Queens, NY, who is not especially good at rapping. Well then, how come 50 Cent is the biggest name in the manically cut-throat hip-hop world today? The article's argument: clever marketing, staged feuds (most prominently with the artist currently known as The Game), and the mystique of the "I got shot 9 times and I survived. Bitch!" routine. I beg to differ. Anyone with half a brain can make out that 50 (pronounced fi-tee) is a gifted rapper, by doing as I did: listening to Get Rich or Die Tryin', 50's platinum album, all day, for a couple weeks.

You gotta try it. 50 Cent has an inimitable style of delivering his lines with a combination of restraint and ease. It's as if he hardly opens his mouth, yet the lyrics keep coming smooth. This style is nowhere as effective as on my personal favorite, 21 Questions. If the haunting synth doesn't plant itself in your brain after a while, then the absolutely addictive beats of In Da Club will. Now, I can't wait to drop my shit, and go ghetto. 50 has given me a whole new outlook about life, where basically three things matter: guns, bitches and drugs. Wait, how could I forget: bling. If you wanna roll like a gangsta, you gotta have them spinning, flashy rims on your wheels, yo.

While the genre is still young, and is a little rough at the edges, there is no doubt in my mind that gangsta rap is the way to go. It should be played on PA systems in schools. Students will learn invaluable lessons in keepin' it real, fo' sho'. If you can't see that, you a wanksta. If you can, you in da hood, homie.