Thursday, November 08, 2007

Meshell, Keyshia, Joni, Herbie, Jill... Fiddy & 'Ye

The contrived media beef between 50 Cent and Kanye West in the weeks preceding the September 11th release of their latest CDs (Curtis and Graduation, respectively) accomplished two things. First, it laid bare the crude, cynical marketing strategy behind so much hip-hop animus — Biggie and Tupac died for these sins — even though that revelation ain’t hardly new. It also gassed the flames around the always and forever blazing authenticity bugaboo that rends the American Negro community: intra-racial class warfare. It was the up-by-his-bullet-wounds, ’hood-spawned gangsta versus the middle-class prep-school mama’s boy. Predictable camps fell along predictably defensive (and often offensive) lines of rhetoric; much old-media ink was spilled and blog space allocated toward explaining how this latest manifestation of patented Afro-Am class schisms folded into and stoked anxieties around definitions of “real” black manhood. But like the tabloid feud between Donald Trump and Mark Cuban, this was also and primarily a pissing contest between very rich men. (You almost have to admire the audacity of the two trigger-tempered hip-hop divas for the way they jacked a date swollen with nationalistic emotionalism and overwrought good-versus-evil symbolism, and used it as marketing D-day for their own dick jousting.)

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