This was an essay I wrote for UNST254I: Sophomore Inquiry–Popular Culture.
The music industry, like many other creative disciplines in the modern era, is widely considered increasingly commercialized, pre-packaged, and therefore uninteresting. 50 Cent’s music video “In Da Club” capitalizes on this view to create an interesting, if perhaps ironic, text on the nature of his own work and of the industry he participates in.
Analysts of popular culture are generally interested in the effects that media texts have on consumers in the culture. These analysts often value true creativity and authenticity, and decry industrial cynicism and marketing, on the grounds that uninformed consumers will lose sight of the line between the fake, pre-packaged texts and the authentic ones. Eminem and Dr. Dre are frequently cited as both counter-examples and examples of this phenomenon.
Into this context comes 50 Cent, who released his debut CD “Get Rich Or Die Tryin” in February 2003, produced by Eminem’s and Dr. Dre’s label “Shady/Aftermath Records”. On this CD is the song “In Da Club”, an unremarkable example of hip hop that nonetheless is incredibly popular, with the CD currently holding #24 on Amazon.com’s sales ranking. With a focus on 50 Cent’s money and sex life, the song can by no means be considered to have redeeming social values, though as pure entertainment it is not a bad song.
However, what distinguishes this song is arguably the music video produced for it. At the beginning of the video, we the audience are told that we are visiting the “Shady/Aftermath Artist Development Center”. We are shown 50 Cent on an operating table, Eminem and Dr. Dre monitoring from a balcony; we are shown 50 Cent in a small gym, working out, with more scientists monitoring his progress; in a recording studio, a shooting gallery, and–finally–a club.
All of these visuals have an implicit message: 50 Cent is manufactured, trained, re-constructed by Eminem and Dr. Dre. One might imagine this is a ploy to appear honest in order to claim otherwise unwarranted authenticity, and that to sell more product: “Look, other artists won’t tell you how they got where they are, but we’re all about the full disclosure, so buy from us.” By following this process of buying authenticity, the video destroys authenticity itself. One might also observe that, as ploys go, this one has positive social effects derived from repeatedly highlighting the manufacturing process. Even when it seems 50 Cent is making his way on his own, serving his own ends in the crowded club, the camera backs off to show Eminem and Dr. Dre again, watching from behind a one-way mirror.
In a market saturated with unremarkable music, 50 Cent’s song “In Da Club” is another unremarkable contribution. His music video for this song, however, is relatively unique in its candor regarding the nature of the market for popular music. While this “wink wink, nod nod” message may be yet another ploy to increase sales, it is a sign of increased transparency in the world of marketing, which can only be good for those wanting to quit consuming myths and to begin analyzing them.