Sunday, March 19, 2006

Get rich or lie trying

I like the Money Programme's pop economics editorial policy - analysing the strategies of Tesco rather than meticulously tracking the nuances of futures and derivatives. Their slightly one dimensional analysis of Fifty Cent's 'business empire' was a bit of a let down though. It seemed to have been driven almost exclusively by the fact they'd managed to gain a brief audience with the man himself. For this read; they stood around some palatial hotel room while he absent mindedly played his own PS2 game. The programme basically concluded that Fiddy made a lot of money by putting his name to a lot of merchandise. This was validated by asking a self-confessed Fiddy obsessive, Chanice. They asked whether she would buy a pair of trainers with his name on. The answer was, it seems, yes, which is strange that from an obsessive fan. The conclusion was neither damning, praising or explanatory, the 50 Cent success story was just, y'know, a thing.

Lucien, a brand consultant with a public school education and an American drawl who pronounced leverage as beverage not lever as diva, concluded that Mr Cent had a gangster image, made a lot of money and that the corporations who associated with him may be taking a risk but it may be one that's worth taking. Thank you Lucien. DJ Semtex was equally enlightening when trying to explain why McDonalds had failed to attract a hip hop star to endorse their burgers. His explanation went something like "McDonalds, like, no way, its wack". They failed to mention that Destiny's Child and Justin Timberlake had both been successfully recruited by Maccy D; admittedly they're not very hip hop, but they are very big.

Chanice's mum didn't mind her daughter's obsession with the ex-drug dealing gangster so much (although she doesn't like it when he says "Mother F"). She said that 'he's only reflecting what's happening on the streets'. Really? asked the presenter who they'd deliberately dressed in achingly conservative brogues and Thomas Pink shirts. "Yes", said Chanice's mum, "In Rainham", she qualified with some force. They live in Gillingham, where presumably drive-by shootings are less frequent.

This is a common assertion made by hip hop stars, that their gansta flow is street commentary. But this makes no sense, Fifty Cent isn't reflecting what's happening on the streets. The reason he's hauled moderate talent onto a world stage is because he's been shot nine times. It's a fantastical story upon which an all action vigilante image has been built. He seems like quite a nice guy and understands his business, which helps; but the reason we know he's been shot nine times because most people are not shot nine times in their lifetime. He may be able to mumble humourlessly about his own life, but he's not reflecting what's happening in everyone else's life. If being shot nine times were a reflection of what's typically happening in the world; it would be the equivalent of me leveraging the fact I shop at Tesco in order to foster a multi-million pound music career.

On the otherhand, if Fiddy can rap about Candy Shops, maybe there is something to lever here... "I'm going to the Tesco shop, it has adequately varied stock"


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