(Todd A. Smith)
Rapper/actor Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson recently purchased a warehouse equaling approximately one million square feet to shoot television shows and movies under his G-Unit umbrella.
Brad Callas of Yahoo Entertainment reported, “After establishing his TV prowess at Starz with hit series like ‘Power’ and ‘BMF,’ 50 Cent is expanding his empire with a new 985,000 square foot studio for G-Unit’s film division.”
After posting a picture of the bare space on Instagram, 50 said, “Well, would you look at here. 985,000 square feet. Can you say G-Unit studios?”
While many praised the move of Black excellence, even comparing it to Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, some validly hoped that 50 would spread his wings a little more and produce some shows that do not rely on rampant violence and sex.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, criticism is a part of life.
Sometimes constructive criticism can give a person the right kick in the behind to motivate them to reach even higher heights.
Furthermore, if one puts themselves into the public eye, they should expect public scrutiny.
However, what some people do not realize is that creatives create what they know.
That is why some creatives make redundant content, whether some in the public like it or not.
Perry received much criticism from some in the Black community for profiling Black trauma, portraying stereotypical images of Black men and for what some see as buffoonery.
Additionally, others have criticized Perry for his preachy Christian messages in films.
I had a student at Texas Southern University tell me one time that he would watch Perry films if they did not contain Christian messages.
My reply was it would not be a Perry movie, likely, if the movies did not touch on faith.
Perry’s injection of spirituality is why he built such a huge following and fanbase.
For years, many Christians complained about the lack of family-friendly movies at the box office.
Many of them wanted movies that did not promote sin and immorality.
After Perry’s success, Hollywood got on the bandwagon and started producing Christian-themed films by T.D. Jakes and David E. Talbert.
As a writer, teachers often teach their pupils to write what they know.
Perry knows the church.
He knows trauma at the hands of Black men like his stepfather.
And he is funny as you know what.
So, while others might see it as buffoonery, Perry understands laughter as something therapeutic for a community that deals with too much trauma from racism in the workforce to police brutality in the streets.
Perry knows that sometimes people need a good laugh after a hard days or week’s work.
The media mogul’s predecessor in Black cinema Spike Lee once criticized Perry also.
However, in the 1980s, Lee too received criticism for airing the dirty laundry of colorism in the Black community in movies like “School Daze” while also dealing with claims of antisemitism from films like “Mo ‘Betta Blues.”
However, the New York native attended a historically Black college in Atlanta.
In many southern communities, colorism is still a prevalent issue.
When I went to college in Baton Rouge, La., I had never heard the light skin versus dark skin debate so much in my life.
Contrarily, 50 Cent produces street dramas because the brother came directly from the streets of Queens, N.Y.
While some “gangsta” rappers are more studio gangsters than real gangsters, those who grew up in Jamaica Queens say 50 was never a garden tool in the streets.
In a legendary way that probably catapulted his fame, Jackson survived being shot nine times before becoming the biggest sensation in rap music when he dropped his debut album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” in 2003.
Before finding industry fame, the future media mogul found infamy in the streets of New York.
Therefore, when it came time for him to produce television shows and films, he understandably drew from his past for inspiration.
Although the Houston resident has become more refined after 20 years of fame and probably hundreds of millions of dollars, he probably could not accurately tell the story of a child who grew up with two college educated parents in a predominantly White country club community who went on to attend to two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Yours truly could tell that story because it is my story.
If I told the story of the streets and the trials and tribulations of street pharmacists, it would be inauthentic at best and completely “wack” at worst.
That is so because, although I love watching street dramas like the “Power” universe, I know nothing about the streets, selling drugs and surviving shoot-outs with my “opps.”
I too hope 50 spreads his wings.
That is why I, and many other “Power” fans, were disappointed when we heard news that Larenz Tate’s character Rashard Tate, a crooked New York politician, would not get his own spin-off that focuses on the corruption and unquenching thirst for power amongst politicians.
In today’s turbulent political climate, it would have been perfect and would have probably stretched 50’s fanbase.
But the problem is not Jackson, Perry or even Lee.
For decades, the problem was the lack of Black creatives getting a true opportunity to succeed in Hollywood.
In my opinion, that is one of the reasons why so many Black shows and movies were similar because the same Black creatives were getting the only few opportunities.
But the criticism of Black creatives does not necessarily come from a place of hate.
If hate is involved, it is because many in the Black community hate that for years so few of us got an opportunity to share our experiences with the masses.
50 Cent is just the latest to face the brunt of that frustration.
But before you criticize him too harshly, remember where he came from.