Will 50 Cent Retire?

Rapper 50 Cent said he would retire from recording if rival Kanye West outsold him. Newsweek national correspondent Allison Samuels is back to talk about 50's fate, plus a VH-1 boycott, the disappearing black fashion model, and singer Jill Scott's upcoming release.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

This NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya.

Boycotts against VH1, "The Search for a Black Model," and preview of Jill Scott's new album - here with the freshest in entertainment, we've got Allison Samuels, a correspondent for Newsweek.

Hey, Allison.

Mr. ALLISON SAMUELS (Reporter, Newsweek): Hey. How are you doing?

CHIDEYA: Oh, my goodness. Oh, you have so much to talk about. Well, let's talk about VH1. There's Web sites, including eurweb.com reporting a boycott because VH1 rejected a reality show with a racial spin. But it also accuses the network of deliberately stereotyping black people to its existing reality programming. So what's the show that they're taking about?

Ms. SAMUELS: The show they're talking about was a show about an African-American woman in this interracial love. And I think that was the name of it -"Interracial Love." And the African-American woman was going to be dating a man - a white man. And she was going to be this educated, you know, lawyer woman -something you don't see that much of. And I guess, during the meeting, when the proposal was put forth, someone - an authority at VH1, said, no, that show's not ghetto enough for us. So it's not what we want. And whoever the employee was, which is an African-American woman, leaked that out. And it's sort of gotten out over the Web sites; a lot of blogs have been talking about it. And I think it's interesting given that when you do look at the shows that they do have on, like "Flavor of Love," like "New York, New York," or even "Charm School."

CHIDEYA: If you don't have gold fronts, you can't be on the show.

Ms. SAMUELS: You can't be on there. And it's just - and it's just this sort of - I'm amazed when people watch it because I have so many friends that do watch it and enjoy it. And I watch it and I'm appalled. I'm just like, I don't really want to see this on TV for 30 minutes.

CHIDEYA: But is there a big enough movement around this to really change the game? Because there's always people like, you know, I think of Reverend Butts of Abyssinian Baptist.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right. Right.

CHIDEYA: He rolled his steamroller over the rap records.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: Doesn't seem to have stopped 50 or Kanye or anyone else.

Ms. SAMUELS: Or anyone else. And BET. I mean, BET has certainly faced these things, you know, same type of objections. Although I think BET had a better situation like with the "Hot Ghetto Mess." They were able - protests did sort of go on. But that is with the black network.

I don't know if VH1, who's, I think, bottom line is dollars and "Flavor of Love" has done so well for them. And "New York" has done so well. My thing is, though, if you're going to have those shows, at least balance them. I guess that would - that's what upset me, that you didn't see - that they didn't feel the need to say, okay, let's do this other show and show this other side of African-American women. But in their defense, that "Rock of Love" show is just as bad for white women.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SAMUELS: I mean, I'm amazed at what women will do to get on TV.

CHIDEYA: Yeah.

Ms. SAMUELS: So if - you know, I don't know. But I think, for African-American women, because our positive images are so few and far between on mainstream television, I think it sort of hurts us a lot more.

CHIDEYA: Well, let's move on to black women of another stripe, another model, if you want to say. Supermodel Naomi Campbell taking fashion magazines like Vogue to task, saying they're making it harder for black models to make the cover. And veteran model-turned-model agent Bethann Hardison was inspired, and she's moderating a panel discussion today in New York that's going to ask the question, what happened to the black fashion model?

You know, are black women in and out of Vogue? Are we kind of like high-heeled shoes or mini skirts or something?

Ms. SAMUELS: Well, I think, yes. That's one answer to it. But I also think -and I've talked about this for a while. Once the fashion magazines began putting celebrities on the cover, that was the end of the black fashion morale because there are very few celebrities of African-American culture that they feel or they deem, you know, important enough to put on the cover. Unless you're Beyonce, unless you're Hale Berry, they're not going to do it. And I think that's been the downfall of supermodels in general because the term supermodel doesn't exist anymore. You may have a Gisele, you may have a Heidi Klum, but those are really the only two women that are household names that are supermodels now. And I think that's the disadvantage, you know, right now for supermodels. But…

CHIDEYA: So are you saying that this is not a black issue as mush as just a general issue? Or how does it parse out?

Ms. SAMUELS: I think it's a general issue but because African-Americans in everything. You now, the general issue affects us more because we are more of a disadvantage in the first place.

There were so few supermodels that are, you know, that were African-American in the first place. Once they start sort of not only giving it to celebrities -and the part that amazes me about that is you see the same five women on these covers. If I read one more story about Ashley Simpson, who I have no idea what she does. I have never seen a movie or song or anything, but she's on Cosmo every month. And it seems to me that the editors would go, let's take a chance. Let's put some (unintelligible) on the cover. Let's put Mia Long on the cover.

I don't understand what's so difficult. If you're not going to do the models, at least be diverse enough to get the black actresses to be on the covers. But even that is not sort of translating. So yeah, it's the African-American thing, but I do think that the overall demise of the supermodel is in general, and it's just affected us even more.

CHIDEYA: So we're on a roll - really talking about black women.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: Jill Scott.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: She is a Philly soul singer, finished her third solo album. It's called "The Real Thing."

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: "Words and Sounds Volume 3." And the single is "Hate on Me."

(Soundbite of song, "Hate on Me"):

Ms. JILL SCOTT (Singer): (Singing) If I could give you the world on a silver platter, would it even matter? You'd still be mad at me. If I could find in all…

CHIDEYA: So the disc comes to stores September 25th. You got to sample it early. Couldn't wait to tell us about it. What it's like?

Ms. SAMUELS: It's just fabulous. I mean, she's - and Jill is fabulous. I mean, you can't even, you know, words can not even, you know, express how wonderful I think Jill is. And what I love about Jill is that - I think we've definitely been in this glam mode for a really long time. And I love Beyonce. Let's be clear. I love her. But I do think that there is a movement and a place now for someone else to come along and sort of get some of that spotlight. And Jill is so real. She's not trying to be a size two. She's not trying to be - she's not trying to be a - she's trying to be who she is, which is this great singer, this sort of real, down-to-earth African-American women. And I think African-American women really relate to that. She's going through a difficult divorce, which she talks about on her album. Just the heart breaking, you know?

CHIDEYA: And in her first album, she wrote love songs about her husband. So it's like a cycle.

Ms. SAMUELS: It really is. And it's sad. You know, but who doesn't go through that? I mean, that's the reality of life. You fall in love, and it doesn't work our, and you talk about it. And so I think - and I think Mary J. Blige has had sort of the - the sort of - she's done that a lot. And I - it's good to sort of hear someone else now have that story, because Mary's now -

CHIDEYA: Pass the mic.

Ms. SAMUELS: Yeah. Pass the mic.

(Sounbite of laughter)

Ms. SAMUELS: And actually - and I think Jill now has it. And her voice is just so strong and so powerful. And she's such a beautiful woman, but not in the typical way that we consider beauty. And I think that's why it was wonderful to see her on the cover of Essence. You know, in all her glory and all her beautiful - and all her beauty, and realize that that's not the typical size two, you know, cheekbones, you know, just this sort of, you know, African-American strong features that you don't necessarily see all the time, not the Caucasian features that are so strongly sort of emphasized, I think, in mainstream beauty. So I just think it's not just the album. It's just the total Jill that I'm just happy to sort of see come back.

CHIDEYA: I love that. The total Jill.

Ms. SAMUELS: The total Jill, yes.

CHIDEYA: Well, she also has been speaking out about music, saying that some of pop music is quote, "dirty, inappropriate, inadequate, unhealthy and polluted. We can demand more." However, we sisters don't always demand more. We don't always ask for more.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right. Right.

CHIDEYA: Is her kind of stance on music lyrics, on, you know, music in general - is it going to resonate or are people just going to say stop whining?

Ms. SAMUELS: It's so freaky. It goes back almost to the VH1 thing. Because you would think that there would be more people who would be offended by the images that are on that. I think we've just become very complacent. I think we become - we are so used to seeing those negative images that - particularly the younger generation, I don't know if we really even understand that we can say something, that it isn't like that, that we do need to make change. I think so many of the kids, like under 25, this is what they've grown up with. And they think, well, this is the norm. Why would I complain when this is how life is?

And so I think that Jill's message, I hope we're in the time, particularly because Alicia Keys is coming out as well. So I'm hoping with both of them coming out with albums - I have to say Alicia's new song, I'm not in love with. But, you know, I'm hoping with both of them coming out with this sort of strong, sort of we're women, respect us; we have talent, respect us; we're not handbags. Which is what Alicia Keys was saying. That, you know, now, women are accessories, and that needs to stop.

And so I think, as long as there's two of them or even three - because I think Keyshia Cole is also a powerful sort of woman. As long as we keep seeing those women come out, I think it will at least demand people's attention for a little while.

CHIDEYA: Well, let's take a 60-second pop through hip-hop landia(ph). Kanye, 50 going mano-y-mano…

Ms. SAMUELS: Yeah.

CHIDEYA: …on the whole album sales tip. Here's a little bit from Kanye.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KANYE WEST (Rapper): I really like 50. I don't want him to retire once my album sells the most. I just want to…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WEST: …say to him, please, 50, do not retire once my album sells and beat your album. Please do not retire. Please.

(Soundbite of cheering)

CHIDEYA: That's right, Curtis, also known as 50 Cent, saying that he would retire if he doesn't win on the one-on-one battle that started on September 11th when both their albums dropped. Who's winning?

Ms. SAMUELS: Kanye is winning, which I think anybody should have realized was going to happen because Kanye has a more mainstream base. And I think that, you know, he's winning like - about 200,000, which is a pretty significant amount. But let's be clear, who's winning? Everybody is winning because hip-hop has been in a slump, and there hasn't been anything interesting going on in hip-hop for a while now.

And these two guys come up with this sort of, you know, hype beef, this sort of semi-beef or pseudo-beef. And people were talking. And they get on the cover of the Rolling Stones, looking at each other, posturing and I'm just like, of course, there's hype. You would never have seen Biggie and Tupac get on the cover of a magazine, opposing each other and looking, you know, putting on acts. They had a real beef. This is a let's-make-money beef, let's-get-people-talking-about-us beef.

And it's worked. I think it's an ingenious plan by those two guys because he is, well, you know, 50 has won, Kanye has won, Kenny Chesney has won. Because, I mean, he came in and said I could beat both of y'all. I don't think he is, the country music singer…

CHIDEYA: Right.

Ms. SAMUELS: But he is, I think, he's battling 50 Cent right now for number two.

CHIDEYA: He's trying to get in the middle, huh?

Ms. SAMUELS: He's trying to get in the middle, which I thought was cute.

CHIDEYA: A little hip-hop sandwich.

Ms. SAMUELS: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SAMUELS: And I thought it was cute, though. But I think, overall, hip-hop has won because people are talking again the - people were really motivated to go out and buy the albums of both of them - and the last album, the last rap album that topped the charts, Common, who sold like a hundred thousand. So you know, 50's at 550 and Kanye's at 750,000. That's a huge jump.

CHIDEYA: Kaching(ph), Allison, thank you so much.

Ms. SAMUELS: Definitely. Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Allison Samuels is a national correspondent for Newsweek.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.