50 Cent defends his right to offend

50_lWhen asked during a BET press conference Thursday if, amid the post-Imus furor over rap lyrics, he’d remove sensitive words from his music like Master P has, 50 Cent gave a big hell no. Besides, "Master P doesn’t sell CDs anymore," he said. 50 said rappers write lyrics in response to what already exists in their environments, explaining, "If I ask you to paint a picture of the American flag and not use the color red, you’re gonna have a difficult time." True enough. He also managed to plug his new album twice. Watch it here.

In the wake of any racist or sexist controversy — or actually, at any time — how realistic is the expectation that artists should self-censor their lyrics? And does 50 deserve props for candor and for standing his ground, or criticism for opportunism and insensitivity?

addCredit(“50 Cent: Scott Gries/Getty Images”)

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  • whol

    “If I ask you to paint a picture of the American flag and not use the color red, you’re gonna have a difficult time.”
    Wha? Either way…I don’t look for cunning logic from 50 cent.
    Who cares? Why even listen to 50 Cent when we have real talent in the world?

  • mikey

    I give props to 50. The artist’s only true responsibility is to their artistic vision. If social or other circumstances cause artists to change their personal expression of that vision (e.g. Paul Mooney) that’s fine. But self-censorship to merely bow to the forces of political correctness, not good.
    The public makes a separate choice to accept or reject art placed before it. 50 can and should produce whatever he wants, it’s our choice to buy it or pay attention to it. That choice should not be confused with an artist’s responsibility to express artistic vision — be it controversial, offensive, or otherwise.

  • Ron Mexico

    Better question, why is a guy that lived the life of a simple street thug given credibility and respect simply because he strung some words together?

  • t3hdow

    whol, I think 50 Cent is saying without using the color red, it’s impossible to paint an authentic American flag if someone asked you to do so. It’s a wonky analogy but I can understand where he was going with that comparison. Censorship restricts an artist’s mode of expression, just like restricting the color red when you’re trying to paint an American flag. Granted, 50 Cent is far from an intellectual rapper (though his debut album ‘Get Rich or Die Trying’ wasn’t half bad), but you were thinking way too hard, dissecting his statement.

  • Jason

    I understand writing about what you know and see and writing your truth, but at the same time how will things ever change? If you write about that stuff, it just continues the cycle and nothing changes. If more people start writing about things respectfully, it will change how we as a society communicate. Children mimic what they see and hear.

  • vb

    wow 50 cent needs to get over himself. the american flag is a symbol of the country. his music symbolizes crap. it’s stupid rappers like these that get people like imus to say hurtful things. and then u know the moron al sharpton will be there practicing his hipocracy. rappers need to learn how to be artistic without being offensive.

  • to mikey

    it might be our choice to hear it or buy it, but when rappers like 50 cent say those things, younger kids will less it to it regardless, because he’s “in” or “cool”. adults might be smart enough to boycott, but that won’t stop the kids from downloading his music or requesting it on the radio.

  • Nix

    The thing is, when it comes to popular culture, our only choice is often to take part, or not to. Music like Fiddy’s is not a matter of pure taste/choice/art — it’s marketing. Radio playlists, coverage in magazines, music videos, personal appearances — all an attempt at manipulating the market’s desires. Now, I ignore that entire subset of pop culture, but then I recognize my freely-chosen slice of culture is somehow diminished.

  • Corky

    Yes 50 cent can put decent words. But is he smart enough to use more intelligent words to get his message across without using particular words. If they are not smart enough to come up with other words then , H%%s, B*****S, N&^&*s, they shouldn’t have a record contract. There is a thing called a dictionary, try alternate words that are not so harmful.

  • Chuck_A

    Dom Imus was fired and no talent bums like this are still working. How ridiculous. I hope Imus takes those bast*rds to the cleaners in his lawsuit.
    As far as censorship goes, let these guys write what they will (just as Imus should be allowed to say what he will). Let the market decide what makes money (as last time I checked, we were living in at least a partial democracy here).

  • Daryl

    50 cent and others like who are too lazy and too cowardly to try and write songs without being offensive, sexist, homophobic and filled with hate. They have taken a genre of music that could be used for fun and a positive message and turned it into a medium to pass on their negativity and ill will. This BS about writing about the “truth” is an excuse for him and other rappers/hip hop artists to be as mean spirited and ignorant as they want. Rather than fight for the greater good, they prefer to appeal to the lowest common denominater. Its much easier to follow the crowd of mindless rappers who are butchering the English language, hating anyone who isn’t a part of the thug culture, and representin’ your street appeal than stand up and do something different than the others—namely, rap or sing with a positive, socially relevant message….or whatever happen to music just being fun? I refuse to waste my money or time on any of these losers.

  • t3hdow

    To Daryl and Chuck:
    Although there’s little I disagree with you on that regard, it’s the state of the music industry and the consumers that’s more to blame. After all, Common’s last CD “Be” didn’t receive as much fanfare as the rote rappers you often hear on the radio. I watched a documentary recently on the recent state of rap, and what impressed me the most was when the director asked for aspiring gangsta rappers to freestyle more intelligent messages behind their lyrics. Surprisingly, all of them passed with flying colors. It’s not that some of these rappers don’t have the potential. It just doesn’t sell so well to the consumers, who are ironically enough upper middle class white kids who probably never many black people in their life. The music is an outlet to an entire subculture that’s alien to them and that’s what sold well (now, it’s club anthem that sell as ringtones).
    Everyone still has the right to shut off the radio, but the problem isn’t so simple to solve.

  • Anonymous

    “50 said rappers write lyrics in response to what already exists in their environments . . .” Yes, and then they glamorize it and make it seem desirable. It’s a huge cop-out to say they can’t take what they see and turn it into a more responsible message. And it’s NOT censorship if an artist makes a decision to be more responsible. Censorship is when the government tries to silence people, not when an artist makes choices on his/her own.

  • Who?

    I would like to know if he has an education. He may feel that this is all he has. 5o cents, school is a good thing. Buy a dictionary and read it.

  • Taylor

    You call this music?

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