Hip-Hop Fridays: 50 Cent, T.I. Speak Their Minds On Lyric Censorship by Gail Mitchell

Top rappers 50 Cent and T.I. spoke their minds about the recent controversy over inappropriate language in hip-hop yesterday (May 16) during a press conference to announce the 2007 BET Awards nominees. As previously reported, a group of urban leaders has urged the music industry to censor the words "b*tch," "ho" and the "N-word" from future hip-hop albums.

"It's not really a tragedy to me that that's happening," 50 Cent said. "I think for a moment a lot of people forgot that our country's at war. They'll point to usage of content in music like hip-hop and say it maybe influences violence on some levels and not point to actual films that are released and have similar content. I personally believe on every level that it's easier to attack an individual than it is to go after a corporation. They'll go after a specific hip-hop artist as opposed to a Paramount or a Columbia Pictures."

A journalist pressed that 50, who repeatedly promoted his upcoming album, "Curtis," during the Q&A, hadn't truly answered the question, adding, "Do you feel compelled at all to get with the program and not use certain words?"

"Music is a mirror and hip-hop is a reflection of the environment we grew up in, the harsh realities," 50 Cent said. "If I ask you to paint a picture of the American flag and not use the color red, you'd have a difficult time. So to capture what we're trying to in this art form, I'm sure some conservative Americans can't actually ID with it because of their lifestyle and the way they've been brought up. They haven't been exposed to these realities. I understand it. I'm actually angry at some points when I'm confused or I don't have information. Again, I understand why I'm constantly being attacked on some levels. It's difficult to find hip-hop that has had any success that hasn't had content on some level that was a little racy."

Adding his perspective, an impassioned T.I. remarked, "What 50 was trying to put into words without losing his temper is it all starts at home. I'm a father of five. And my kids watch BET. They watch all kinds of videos, they watch movies, they listen to music, they like 50 and Lil' Wayne, whomever you can mention. But when my children look at these videos or listen to this music, I don't care how impressionable it is. They know they aren't going to have to deal with 50. They're going to have to deal with daddy. And that's the way it starts."

Against loud applause, T.I. continued, "We look to rappers, athletes and stars to raise our children instead of ourselves. To blame hip-hop when they should be looking in the mirror and blaming themselves ... you know, how much more time could I have been there for my child? I'm on CD. He [the child] listens to me but I can't listen back. I don't know what he's getting from it. You do. You know when you wake up and see him dressed in a shirt you've never seen him in before, and you figure this could be the beginning of something, why don't you stop and talk to him about it. Ask where he got the shirt from. If you don't do that, it will grow into something bigger and bigger."

"The things I say come from the life that I used to live," he said. "And this is a harsh reality. Now, maybe most of you were fortunate enough to not have ever dealt with that. Most of you all don't know what it's like to have to sell some dope or you aren't going to have nothing to eat for the next three days. Most of you all don't know what that life is like. I know the B-word, the H-word and the N-word are the words under attack right now. And I don't know if you know it or not, people, but there are b*tches, n*ggas and hos who live in America. And as long as that fact exists, I think rappers deserve the right to talk about it."

This article first appeared in Billboard Magazine

Gail Mitchell

Friday, May 18, 2007