So 50 Cent is writing a young adult novel. Yes, for real. The semi-biographical Playground will follow a 13-year-old bully who realizes the error of his ways, and it's coming out in January.
For now, I'm going to ignore the fact that said novel will be written by a ghostwriter, or that 50 Cent probably didn't come up with the idea on his own. I don't even care that he's a pretty silly character in general. Because when it comes to celebrities that kids worship, none of that matters.
Millions of kids look up to 50 Cent and will take anything to heart that's attached to his name. So if he's calling for an end to violence in the schoolyard, perhaps he shouldn't rap about shooting people. If he cares about bullying, maybe he shouldn't tweet about how gay guys should kill themselves. While he's at it, he might refrain from constantly starting shit with other rappers.
To be fair, a rapper writing a book about the violence that poor, black kids endure daily in school could give some much-needed visibility to an issue that seldom gets the spotlight. In recent years, news stories of homophobia-related violence have gotten far more attention than pervasive urban bullying, not only because they have often involved a suicide, but because anti-gay activism is a far friendlier cause to white, affluent people.
Still, think of how much more revolutionary it would be if 50 Cent's songs—you know, the stuff he makes millions of dollars on—even marginally reflected these newfound values. A young adult novel about bullying rings hollow after hearing lyrics like these from "Heartless Monster" (which was aimed at Kanye West):
"Niggas from the hood ain't supposed to wear no retro shit/I'm-a tell my lil' niggas to start kickin' ya fuckin' ass/See ya out there wit that funny shit on/Look at him he's a faggot/Kick him/ Kick his fuckin' ass"
Yikes. If that's not a call to bully someone, I'm not sure what is.
50 Cent said in a statement that the book "would have been very helpful for me growing up and now that I have a teenage son, it is my goal that this will have a positive influence on all teenagers." Like star pro-athletes, rappers have a real opportunity to sway the opinions of kids, and 50 Cent is choosing to wield this power very deliberately. I'm not advocating censorship; I think 50 has a right to rap about whatever he pleases. But if he truly wants to be an advocate and role model, he should take responsibility for the hand he plays in bullying, and then do something about it.