Continuing a saga that began earlier this year, Samuel L. Jackson and rapper 50 Cent are at each other’s throat again – via the press only, thank goodness – essentially about hip-hoppers breaking big and untested into film. Jackson previously was quoted wondering what would make a big-time director like Jim Sheridan (In America, My Left Foot) choose to work with virgin actor Fiddy for his biopic, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, which hits theaters nationwide on November 9.
Duh… money? Ummm… fascinating story? Well, Sheridan explained his interest in working with Mr. Magic Stick this way:
“The Irish experience is very close to the black experience, down to the toxic nature of the way we speak. I grew up in an area of Dublin that was very poor, and there was lots of heroin. I had fights with kids, addicts, and I had to defend myself.”
And defend himself Mr. Sheridan continues to do – against critics like Samuel L. Jackson. But Fiddy seems to have his own back against Samuel L., whose most memorable role in some of our minds remains that of doped-up, ever-dancing “Gator” in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. For instance, the rap superstar recently said this in an interview, responding to the question of big Sam having snubbed an invitation to co-star in his biopic:
“I don’t even see where Samuel fits into my life story anyway, unless he plays one of the crackheads. He was a crackhead originally, right? So I come from being a rapper, and he comes from being a crackhead.”
Well! 50 Cent doesn’t appear to need me or anyone else to defend him; he’s handling things just fine, thank you very much. But still, I get a little irritated when I hear Samuel Jackson singing this same song about rappers winning major roles in movies.
My high-road argument is that it’s not at all a new phenomenon. From Elvis and Frank Sinatra to Diana Ross and Sammy Davis Jr., musically inclined artists have always leveraged their popularity to make it on to the silver screen. And everyone that I’m aware of cheered on each and every one of them.
But my low-road leads here: Why is there always a devaluation of young black men today who attempt this age-old cross-over act? Why do people seem unwilling to entertain the possibility that artistic talent in one arena often extrapolates to another? And why oh why would anyone discourage a guy whose fame largely rests on his ex-dope dealing laurels from taking every avenue possible to make an honest living?
I mean, I understand Samuel Jackson’s point. There are too many talented black actors who can’t get a break and aren’t eating well. Some of them have paid top dollars, blood, sweat and tears for serious thespian training, too. Some of them probably are just about as broke as Curtis Jackson once was.
But isn’t part of America’s magic its rags-to-riches way? We applaud so many less educated people who’ve become multi-millionaire CEOs, journalists and the like. When will some of us give up the ghost and applaud underdogs like Curtis Jackson, too, for some of that boot-strap action? Heck, I’ve even heard rumors there have been gin-and-juicer types in the White House… Some even wonder how on Earth these same sippers acquired an Ivy League education.
So what makes a DMX or 50 Cent less worthy of every chance to straighten up and fly right? If you think there’s a real difference, I’d argue that — at best — you’re high on something. But whatever you’re smoking, you certainly didn’t buy it from the very enterprising Curtis Jackson.
So I say to America’s next big(ger) thing about his “crack-ish” quote, “Right on, Fiddy!” But ummm, you didn’t start your “career” as a rapper, did you? Perhaps a more exact reference to your pre-rap career might better illustrate the point to Spike Lee’s diggity-dancing “Gator.” Save your energy, Mr. Magic Stick, for critics of those lethal weaponed billboards.