Earlier this week, ABC News followed one of the most unlikely celebs on a visit to Dolo, Somalia: 50 Cent. Yes, you read that right. Fiddy, aka Curtis Jackson, traveled to a refugee camp in support of the United Nations World Food Program. Last year, Jackson pledged to feed one billion meals to African children over the next two and a half years. Thus far, he’s fed an impressive three million.
“I want to be more, not just as an artist but as a person. My legacy… what’s left behind,” 50 told a skeptical ABC News of his humanitarian efforts. “This is the next chapter of my life. I don’t care if my audience is prepared to move forward with me. They may not necessarily be growing at the same pace.”
As the video made its rounds on the blogs, it was met with a mixed reaction. Many gave it a critical eye, accusing 50 of pulling a blatant PR move, similar to Kim Kardashian’s unexpected visit to Haiti in December. Then there were those, like me, who applauded his efforts. Nothing about 50 Cent in Somalia really makes sense from a branding perspective, a feeling that 50 even seemed to acknowledge in the segment. In recent years, 50’s been almost as well known for antagonizing fellow artists and clowning Oprah as he has been for his music and acting roles. But I will never knock anyone for doing something good for the world, whether it’s for a moment of clarity or just a PR move.
50 Cent seems to be growing up — but will we let him? I couldn’t help but notice the number of times the 20/20 interviewer referred back to Fiddy’s days on the streets of Queens where he was shot nine times and lived as a drug dealer. But that’s a point being made as 50 is halfway around the world from New York and feeding famished kids. At what point does a man (or woman) matter more than where they’ve been?
It’s a question I often think about being on the better side of 30. I’ve started thinking more about my legacy, my purpose, and my past mistakes and how I should make amends. That made me hyper-observant of how other people are dealing or have dealt with transitions from one phase to another. Take for instance Jay-Z, who despite teaming up with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to raise awareness about the world water crisis, or hobnobbing with Warren Buffet, or heck, just holding fans for countless summers, like 50 can’t escape his less than stellar beginnings as a project drug dealer. It’s accurate, but is it fair?
I get why people won’t let Chris Brown’s past go. But for others, like 50 and Jay-Z, who are making real strides for change and leaving their pasts in the past, is there ever redemption? Or will they always be known for what they did and less for what they are doing?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk