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Tough Talk, Tougher Challenge

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

50 Cent says he'll retire if his latest album, Curtis, doesn't outsell Kanye West's Graduation. But if neither album does well, hip hop might face something even more daunting than the loss of a star. We talk with Sasha Frere-Jones, pop music critic at The New Yorker magazine, and Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune pop music critic and co-host of public radio's "Sound Opinions."


Sasha Frere-Jones and Greg Kot

Comments [13]


Kot's Oasis-Blur comparison was unexpected yet apt. Manufacturing and hyping "conflict" to goose record sales didn't start with 50-Kanye, and it probably won't end with it either.

Sep. 11 2007 05:09 PM
Patrick Rivers from BK

Loved this segment, Frere-Jones is a great talker as he is a writer. I wish he could of commented on the possibility of Lil' Wayne's album out-selling both of these records later this year, especially after his spotlight on the rapper in July.

Enjoyed listening, now it's time to go out and get my copy of "Just Who I Am." They can't tell him nothing when it comes to getting money.


Sep. 11 2007 04:17 PM
A listener

A few final thoughts:

- I'd never heard of Sasha Frere-Jones, but he sounded credible with his frank dissection of this record company stunt.

- I also appreciated the acknowledgment that both performers work for the same company.

- Record companies need to be accountable for what they sell. I now sound something like the people who wanted to censor groups like NWA, but I'm not talking about censorship. Not less speech, more speech. Let's tell the public who's getting rich by peddling death to black and brown people. Let's counter the death dealers in our communities with messages of hope and love and life. I only have so much time and space in my life and there is no room in it for death-dealers like "Fiddy" or the companies that promote people like him.

- I will continue in this struggle.

Sep. 11 2007 03:02 PM
A listener

"Do you also object to John Lee Hooker, who often portrays the murderous anti-hero in his lyrics, along with a host of other blues musicians?"

Good point. Let me talk about Johnny Cash, whose music I know better. There's lots of stuff that could trouble some listeners. "Delia's Gone" comes to mind. But Johnny is a complex man, a man of faith, who was singing ABOUT violence. It can be argued that his music allows or makes a listener reflect on violence. And he was a musical genius whose career spanned decades.

"Curtis" is promoting violence. There is no artistry. And he is promoting violence today, in our time, against our kids.

As far as I know, Johnny Cash never advocated the killing of "nigg*s."

Sep. 11 2007 02:31 PM
A listener

Thank you for your reply, Timothy, and I want to stress that I am responding here with complete sincerity and respect.

"Curtis" is a person who I would say lacks a social conscience. And, yes, his music is garbage. It is filled with hate and, I think, self-loathing. Don't you see enough angry young people in Brooklyn. Don't you want something better for them and for your community?

I stand by my critique and if you support music that touts the killing of "nigg*s" then I seriously question your line of thinking. But, hey, it's a semi-free country.

Forward ever, backward never!

Sep. 11 2007 02:03 PM
Timothy Stutters from Brooklyn, NY

I am also a fan of Curtis Mayfield. I have listened to both Kanye and 50's album in their entirety, so I don't need to listen to the 30 second soundbytes. There is a lot of violence in any 50 Cent album. That is part of what he does as an artist. Do you also object to John Lee Hooker, who often portrays the murderous anti-hero in his lyrics, along with a host of other blues musicians?

In order to really get hip-hop, it is necessary to sit through more than 30 second soundbytes, because the lyrics often flip and contradict themselves in rap. Rap can be more complex than people think. Especially in the greatest artists like Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. Rap can also be very hard to defend for this same reason.

Sep. 11 2007 01:55 PM
Timothy Stutters from Brooklyn, NY

While the music industry does fight innovation, it is also ultimately forced to embrace it, because of popular demand. This is evident from the rise of rap to the rise of internet based media. However an industry does need to exist in order for artists to make a living for their work. And I strongly believe in the right of an artist to make a living from his or her work. So I am concerned with the state of the music industry.

As for 50 Cent being garbage, well that's your subjective opinion. I am a fan, and have been since 2001, when he was still a struggling underground artist on the mixtape circuit.

Sep. 11 2007 01:40 PM
A listener

I've seen TOO MUCH DEATH in my community, young kids gunned down. And probably every one of them has been brainwashed into believing in this culture of Death that "Fiddy" and the "music industry" are peddling.

If these are the poets of today and tomorrow, then poetry itself is dead.

I reject this filth. I reject the promotion of Black on Black violence. I reject the promotion of youth violence.

And, oh, BTW, here are the tracks from another album entitled "Curtis" Curtis Mayfield:

If There's a Hell Below We're All Going to Go
The Other Side of Town
The Makings of You
We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue
Move On Up
Miss Black America
Wild and Free
Give It Up
Power to the People
Ghetto Child

Sep. 11 2007 01:31 PM
A listener

With all due respect to Timothy, I am not the least bit concerned with the state of the music industry. I hope it crumbles to the ground and we can start from scratch. That industry has fought every innovation that ever came along and even failed and refused to acknowledge rap in its infancy, when it was positive and really talked about the struggles in urban America. Innovation happens DESPITE the music industry, not because of it. I would rather have 10,000 kids making mixes on their laptops, really dealing with their emotions and their communities than "Fiddy" and the garbage he is peddling.

Here are the title to his latest album:

"My Gun"
"Man Down"
"I'll Still Kill"
"I Get Money"
"Follow My Lead"
"Movin' on Up"
"Straight to the Bank"
"Amusement Park"
"Fully Loaded Clip"
"Peep Show"
"All of Me"
"Curtis 187"
"Touch the Sky"
"Hustler's Ambition"

Go to iTunes and listen to the 30-second excerpts. Just about every track talks about killing "nigg*s." If you put these words in the mouth of a Klansman, there would be riots in the streets.

Sep. 11 2007 01:31 PM
Timothy Stutters from Brooklyn, NY

Both albums are good, and are sonically very different from each other. I see the feud as more of a collaboration. Fans have been waiting for something exciting to happen in hip hop for a while, and the arrival of these two best selling albums is evidence of how much range there is left to be explored in the art form, from Kanye to 50 to everything in between. This type of idea will get a lot of resistance, but hip hop artists are the poets of today and tomorrow, and anyone interested in American cultural art, as well as the state of the music industry, should be interested in the arrival of these two albums.

Sep. 11 2007 11:58 AM
Richy Rich from UWS

I agree, there's so much uplifting and edifying in music, why focus on petty media-manufactured rap "feuds?" You should respect your audience more.

Sep. 11 2007 07:53 AM
A listener

"too in love"

Sep. 11 2007 03:31 AM
A listener

The Chicago Tribune, the veritable epicenter of ghetto, street thug, hip-hop nastiness. Oh, wait, I get it Kanye "was raised in an upper middle class background, attending Polaris High School in suburban Oak Lawn, Illinois."

The hosts of Sound Opinions are waaaaay to in love with themselves and each other and the sounds of their own voices.

Nice that they also did a show on this nonsensical "feud."

This is a silly and disappointing topic.

Sep. 11 2007 03:30 AM

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