Miseducation of Curtis Jackson

October 10th, 2007

What Fiddy’s feud means for hip-hop

By Sophia Ozenbaugh

It all started when Roc-a-fella Records pushed up Kanye West’s Graduation to release on September 11, which coincided with the drop of Fifty Cent’s Curtis. Immediately the speculation began. Was this a beef? A stunt?

Once the news got past Fiddy’s security guards, he puffed up his pecs and challenged the “Louis Vuitton Don” to a televised debate and then vowed to retire if the pink-poppin’ collar of a rapper out-sold him (if only this were true). And Kanye’s response to all of this:

He sarcastically explained on Britain’s “The Friday Night Project” that “Fifty Cent [is] a pretty intimidating guy. I’m not really trying to go to war with Fifty Cent. I just want to put out my album if it’s okay.”

In fact, in many interviews West made it painstakingly clear that this was not a beef. If anything it was a ploy to make the fans buy the music instead of downloading it. And we all know that Fiddy is a businessman, or so he claimed to be in an interview with Rolling Stone. I guess if you sell vitamin water, it’s official. It’s also kind of hard to take Fifty seriously when he is the Terrell Owens of hip-hop—he’ll talk shit on anybody.

In spite of all the hype, this battle did capture more of the essence of what a true rap battle should be—to determine who is the illest. Many hip-hop enthusiasts and radio personalities argued the more neutral debate; both rappers have such dramatically different styles that they’re hard to compare. Taking a look at song titles can illuminate this point—Fifty Cent is the “I Get Money,” “I’ll Still Kill,” “GATman and Robbin” type rapper. While, Kanye West is more of the “School Spirit,” “Homecoming,” “Stronger” rapper.

When asked in a VH1 interview about the style of his new album, West explained, “This album is blacker than any album I’ve ever done. And it’s also whiter than any album I’ve ever done. It’s just more expansive.”

Thus, by mixing and meshing genres, West not only pulls in a wider audience but also debunks some of the stereotypes rap music has been criticized for. In an interview with “106 ‘n Park,” Kanye West said that what he really respects about Fifty Cent is how he overcomes the adversities of America that people “don’t want to see.”

“See for me, it was easier because I had polo shirts for them to accept who my image was,” said West.

Even though West brings up an interesting point, I don’t know what’s so amazing about Fiddy selling the same “guns,” “money,” “bitches and hoes” image that has not only been haunting hip-hop, but our nation’s media for ages. Is the fact that he can pre-package a stereotypical culture supposed to be some great big feat? I think not, but will let the listeners determine for themselves. Who is the better rapper? Let the real battle begin.

Sophia Ozenbaugh is a freshman culture and communication major who wants to get rich, or at least die trying. Email her at sozenba1[at]ithaca.edu.

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