Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson recently filed for bankruptcy and testified in court that despite his flashy public persona, he is only worth $4.4 million.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. The dilemma is the art of the illusion.
So often, we see hip-hop personalities fabricate their status to appear bigger than life. Rocafella Records’ co-founder Dame Dash even admitted in an interview with Boyce Watkins that, “We would always pretend that we had more than we had, so we would always make something look bigger.” And of course many of us have used the saying, “Fake it until you make it.”
Well, 50 Cent just blew the cover off of that never-ending hip-hop fantasy. Whether he is lying under oath and hiding his money in offshore accounts to avoid paying the mother of rapper Rick Ross’ daughter $5 million for releasing a sex tape without permission; or to dodge Sleek Audio Hip Hop, that won a $17.2 million dollar judgment alleging 50 stole some of their designs –the news exposes the art of what hip-hop has become: an illusion.
According to multiple media outlets, 50 Cent testified he doesn’t own the expensive cars and jewelry we consistently see him sporting. He claims he rents, borrows and leases instead.
Besides making him look like a fraud, the bankruptcy filing and court hearing qualify this as a “Hip-hop Dilemma:” the distasteful physical, emotional and/or mental trauma people experience when coming in contact with hip-hop culture.
It puts a bad taste in your mouth and emotionally traumatizes and confuses the culture yet again.
The May 2015 issue of Forbes magazine writes that Mr. Jackson was No. 4 on “The Forbes Five: Hip Hop’s Wealthiest Artists 2015” at $155 million. They also referenced that he was deservedly “still enjoying the fruits” of his epic $100 million Vitamin water deal that he banked in 2007.
He deserves an Oscar for keeping up the $155 million dollar front, or for fronting like he doesn’t have as much money as we perceived. Nevertheless, how are people supposed to take us seriously if everything we live by is fake? If the most visible around us are fronting, what does that say about the rest of us?
We are already plagued with fake butts, fake hair, fake boobs, and fake jewelry. How can we advance our cause if the majority of the culture is misrepresenting itself and making terrible decisions on behalf of Hip Hop?
From Baby being implicated in a murder plot to kill Lil’ Wayne; to Rick Ross assaulting his gardener; to Puffy hitting his son’s football coach with a kettle bell; the hip-hop lifestyle doesn’t seem so attractive.
This, however, maybe a breakthrough for the community at large. The imaginary image that is portrayed and glorified in hip-hop has been tarnished. We have an opportunity to usher in the next school of hip-hop that includes intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, activists, responsible artists, entrepreneurs and business executives.
Time for change
The chorus to the hit song “Legends Never Die” from Kloke, featuring Sadat X and Rash, says it all: “Let’s Get Back to What We Call Hip Hop.” It’s time to roll up our sleeves and change our thought patterns. It was creative mindsets that pioneered the hip-hop phenomenon; now, we accept anything that is presented to us.
We can’t afford to live above our means anymore. We have to stop competing against one another and start competing with the real world around us. We have to go back to the basics and prepare ourselves for the near future.
We have lost ourselves trying to live in the moment and act like we have money to spend when we don’t. A lot is lost in the illusion because a lot of time and effort is spent on perfecting it – so much so we start to believe our own hype.
While we are busy buying $500 bottles, $1,000 belts, and $3,000 Jordans, the rest of the world is ironically laughing ‘Straight to the Bank.’ Mr. Jackson, to thy own self be true.
Jineea Butler, founder of the Hip Hop Union, investigates trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.