50 Cent, the Game and Al Sharpton

Making sense of the violence and the backlash

By Salon Staff

Published March 12, 2005 1:50AM (EST)

On Monday, Feb. 28, 50 Cent went on air at New York's Hot 97 radio station to denounce his protégé, the Game, for insufficient loyalty, and to kick him out of the chart-topping G-Unit crew. While he was speaking, there was a clash downstairs between the Game's and 50 Cent's entourages, and one of the Game's people was shot in the leg.

A few of the various consequences of the incident: The city carpenters union, which owns the Soho building that Hot 97 operates out of, has banned rappers' posses from the premises, and demanded that the station tell it a week in advance what guests will be appearing on its shows so that extra security can be hired. The Rev. Al Sharpton has called for a 90-day TV and radio ban on music by artists who are connected with violent acts. And 50 Cent's new album, "The Massacre," released the day after the shooting, broke sales records by selling 1.14 million copies in less than a week.

It would be ridiculous, of course, to suggest that all of those sales were due to the incident, but it's no secret that 50 Cent's thuggish persona has helped him sell records, and several observers have suggested that the Hot 97 denouncement/shooting was an elaborate publicity stunt to remind fans of just how "street" the rapper remains. Skepticism continues, now that the two rappers have made nice again, appearing together on Wednesday at Harlem's Schomburg Center to end their feud.

As for Sharpton's proposed ban, its status is unclear. Sharpton has reportedly met with three radio companies, including Emmis, which owns Hot 97, to discuss his idea. Emmis has issued a statement that seems to support Sharpton's stance, and saying that it plans to continue talks with the reverend. It has not, however, explicitly said that it will take part in the ban or specified which artists would be affected.

The idea behind Sharpton's ban, that there ought to be some way to nullify the financial incentive for rappers to involve themselves in violence, is a potentially appealing one. It's a somewhat sticky issue, though, a bit too close to censorship for comfort. But at least Sharpton's ban targets violence, unlike the Federal Communications Commission's absurd crusade against swear words and nipple flashes. In Sharpton's words, The whole body politic of America addressed Janet Jacksons breast, and it didnt hurt anybody. Here you have actual bloodshed, and people are not even responding at federally regulated radio stations."

It helps that Sharpton can speak out against violence in rap without being charged with racism. But why stop with rappers? I'd like to propose a 90-day ban on all songs produced by suspected murderer Phil Spector. He doesn't have anything on Top-40 radio these days, of course, but the dude's all over the oldies stations. Better yet, I'd like to see the ban extended to cover the music of Toby Keith, Darryl Worley and others who have had hits with pro-war, pro-violence songs. Their posse, the U.S. Army, scares me quite a bit more than 50 Cent's.

Salon Staff

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