Saturday, January 29, 2011

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (Part 1)

In twenty years, some idiot is going to goof around on Wikipedia, find out about a guy named Curtis Jackson, look at his record sales and start a blog declaring “50 Cent” the best rapper of this decade. My 15-year old son will then believe this blogger, blindside me with a definitive statement about 50 Cent while we drive to the Poconos, and leave me speechless as my wife massages my arm and gives our kids another box of Dunkaroos to keep quiet.

And then, I’ll re-read this article. And laugh. And show it to my son.
How quickly we forget.

Remember 2003? It was a crazy year. President Bush started the War in Iraq, Darko got drafted over Carmelo and Wade, and Martha Stewart was busted in the insider trading scandal. That summer, on every Top 100 radio station, a guy with a raspy voice and kindergarten rhymes bopped into our hearts with his insistence on rapping around sex, drugs, and getting paid. The guy’s name was 50 Cent. And we enjoyed every minute of it.

50 Cent came along at the right time. Thanks to Jay-Z’s success, the pressure on New York City to find the next Notorious B.I.G. to soothe a global hip-hop craze died down, but still…an opportunity existed for someone to co-exist and steal some hearts. Jay-Z was a cool dude and solid rapper, but he looked like Joe Camel. Not someone an easily malleable teenager from Queens is totally sold on patterning his life after.

50 Cent was gully, which was more than enough for us. 50 was from Queens (unlike Jay-Z, who made it a point to claim his Brooklyn heritage). 50 had tattoos and muscles. 50 got shot NINE times, a fact that was recited more times in ‘03 than the Pledge of Allegiance. Everyone had the prerequisite “I SWEAR, 50 Cent was on Jamaica Ave. last Sunday!” story, which made this rapper a man of the people. You know, even though he owned a house in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

My track team bumped the mess out of 50 Cent’s music: from his hit song “In the Club” (which convinced me to sport a white tee and fake earring one summer) to his passionate “21 Questions” ballad (which made it OK to be a lover and a fighter). Apparently, we weren’t the only ones – 50 topped the Billboard charts that year (back when people still bought music) and earned a Grammy nod, ultimately losing to Outkast’s “Speakerboxx/The Love Below” dual-threat album. (In a related story, Nelly’s “Sweat/Suit” followed suit and impressed no one.)

Like all teenagers, I grew up. I stopped wearing baggy jeans and fake earrings, I listened more intently to Jay-Z music (The Black Album came out later that year) and soon realized that Jay-Z was the better rapper, even if he looked like a recurring character from The Banana Splits. Honestly, I thought the argument was moot…until I goofed around on and saw this telling stat under their “Artists of the Decade” rankings:

Eminem (#1). 50 Cent (#6). Jay-Z (#10).

Wait, WHA?? Granted, this is based on Billboard’s album sales count and hot songs charts (note: everyone stopped buying music in 2006) but still, some idiot who wasn’t old enough to see the progression of 50 Cent and Jay-Z will make the ludicrous claim that 50 Cent was better. It’s up to us (the teenagers and fans who lived through the 50 Cent saga) to explain to future generations that 50 Cent couldn’t hold a candle to Jay-Z in the rap game.

Here’s the problem: Since the mega stats back it up, Idiot Future Blogger will have a legitimate argument. Yikes.

And this is where I insert the sentence comparing 50 Cent to Kobe Bryant. Yup.
In about a week’s time, Kobe Bryant will pass Hakeem Olajuwon’s scoring mark and move to #10 on the All-Time Scoring List (the Punnett Square of NBA Stats). Since Kobe’s point totals have dropped an average of 153 points per season since the 2007-08 season, we can roughly assumed (given how Kobe takes care of his body) that Kobe will score around 1,817 points this year (’10-11), 1,664 next year (’11-12), 1,511 in Year 3 (’12-13), and 1,358 in Year 4 (’13-14) in his 17th NBA season (age 35). To place it in perspective, only Kareem and Karl Malone lasted that long and scored more in their 17th years, and both had HOF point guards (Magic, Stockton) giving them bunnies. Amazing.

(By the way, by the time Kobe’s 36th birthday rolls around, it’s not inconceivable to believe that he’ll be sitting at #3 on the all-time list behind the aforementioned Malone and Kareem (with over 33,284 points). WOW.)

This begs the argument: What’s worth more: quality or quantity? Do we give the G.O.A.T. title to Kobe because he’ll quantitatively top Jordan (barring injury), or does M.J. get it based on MVP seasons, title belts, and the fact that his peak dwarfs Kobe’s in every respect? I’ll save you the time. Of COURSE M.J. is better...but you still had to think about it. A scary proposition indeed.

For the fun on it, I’ve extrapolated the careers of Kobe and 50 Cent. Both have measureable talent (athletic ability, mental dexterity), both have taken the world by storm (one teenage suburban girl at a time), and both need to be examined thoroughly to prove to my 15-year-old son that Kobe/50 Cent < M.J./Jay-Z.(I’m splitting this post in two, if only to let you get back to work before your boss peers over your shoulder to see you staring intently at a picture of a shirtless 50 Cent. (By the way, if I ever saw my assistant looking at a picture of 50 Cent at his/her desk, I would point, laugh, and say “Stay thirsty, my friends!” as I hit the water cooler. Yes, even if that’ll be fifteen years from now and they’ll miss the joke.)

- M.B., II

1 comment:

  1. I don't even think we should be having this discussion. But if we must, let's.
    1. I don't listen to hip hop. I'm not a j/z fan. I think he, more than any other rapper, benefited from fortuitous timing.
    2. Since you're making the point that unit sales do not reflect a rapper's skill-or greatness-then you can't talk about greatness without bringing up Biggie & Pac. Both Biggie & Pac could literally & figuratively rap circles around j/z & 50- combined! I don't think there is any Biggie song that people would say is worse than ALL of j/z's and/or 50's songs. So with maybe <50 or so tracks, Biggie is part of this conversation with them despite the fact that all of Biggie's stuff is at least 14 years old and there is so little of it. And Pac dropped like 10 albums AFTER he died: name one j/z song that is better than every single Pac song, all 10000000 of them? I bet there are more Pac hit songs from the 90's than j/z hit songs from the 90's. In the '90's kids in queens were spitting bars from Pac songs before they even knew who j/z was. We can't have a conversation about who has better skills despite the numbers without talking about the people who are considered to be the best.
    3. Having said all of that, if we have to consider only j/z & 50, then I'd suggest considering a couple of things about 50. 50 is WAAAAAY more marketable than j/z. In that sense, 50 beats j/z at his own game. I think that we can all agree that rap has been a paper chase since Run DMC met Aerosmith. If 50 could sell his product on j/z's corners (metaphorically speaking,) then doesn't that make 50 a better rapper than j/z in the total sense of the word ‘rapper’? I mean, rapping is about entertainment. Think of it this way, if j/z & 50 were on the wire, we wouldn't be concerned about the quality of the heroin. We'd be talking about how many kilos each person sold and on how many successfully defended corners without police (and more importantly, Omar)interference. If 50 entertains more people than j/z, then shouldn't that make him the better rapper, regardless of perceived or actual skill? Maybe 50 is a better rapper (drug dealer) because more suburbanites (addicts) can be entertained (get high) from his rapping (product.) And isn't that what every rapper has ever rapped about: being better than you at what you do? [I Jack/ I Rob/ I sin, Ah man, I'm Jackie Robinson 'cept when I run base, I dodge the pen.]
    4. Please tell your 15 year old son that there are better people to listen to than j/z & 50.