Oprah's record as hip-hop fan has scratches

June 02, 2006|By STEVE CHAPMAN

WASHINGTON -- You can tell a lot about people by what they have on their iPod. Oprah Winfrey recently acknowledged that she's "got a little 50 [Cent] on my iPod. I really do. Love `In Da Club.'"

That's the most revealing tidbit I've heard about a major newsmaker since Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said she clicks her iPod most often to Aretha Franklin's "Respect," among other anthems of our generation. That's appropriate. Every woman has at least a little Aretha in her, Lena Horne once said, although I expected the former first lady to be humming along to Helen Reddy's "I am woman, hear me roar."

Ms. Winfrey was defending herself in a surprise appearance on a New York City radio station against a complaint from rap star and actor 50 Cent that she rarely invites rappers on her talk show. "I think she caters to older white women," he said.

FOR THE RECORD - The column "Oprah's record as hip-hop fan has scratches" Friday had an incorrect byline. Its author was Clarence Page. The Sun regrets the error.

Now, now, that's a cheap shot even for a guy who calls himself "50 Cent." Ludacris, another rap star and actor, chimed in with a complaint in GQ magazine. Ms. Winfrey was "unfair" to him, he said, during a show in which he appeared in October with co-stars from Oscar winner Crash.

Mercy. Who knew that big-name macho rap stars had such tender feelings? Apparently touched by their angst, Ms. Live-Your-Best-Life called New York DJ Ed Lover to tell the world, "I listen to some hip-hop." Besides "Fitty," she claimed to "love Jay-Z, love Kanye [West], love Mary J. [Blige]."

I'm still trying to wrap my mental arms around the thought of Ms. Winfrey jogging along listening to 50 Cent's "In Da Club." You go, girl.

I don't question her musical taste. As they used to say on Dick Clark's American Bandstand back in my day, it's got a good beat and you can dance to it.

However, does she listen to the lyrics?

"You can find me in da club, bottle full of bub," it begins. "Bub," by the way, is short for "bubbly," as in champagne, I am told on the street. If you've heard something different, feel free to further enlighten me.

"I'm into having sex, I ain't into making love, so come give me a hug if you into getting rubbed." And that's from the clean version, I point out, the one played on old-fashioned, non-satellite radio. The uncensored version could make Howard Stern blush, were he still capable of embarrassment.

But while Ms. Winfrey tries to show how deeply she still gets down with the people, Ice Cube, another rap and movie star, has joined the bash-Oprah fray, arguing that he's more ready for Ms. Winfrey's audience than she thinks.

"I've been involved in three projects pitched to her, but I've never been asked to participate," he tells FHM magazine in its July issue. When he was helping to promote Barbershop, his hugely successful 2002 movie, she had Cedric the Entertainer and Eve on the show, "but I wasn't invited," he moaned. "Maybe she's got a problem with hip-hop. ... She's had damn rapists, child molesters and lying authors on her show. And if I'm not a rags-to-riches story for her, who is?"

Well, not exactly from "rags," judging by various Cube biographies. Born O'Shea Jackson in 1969 in South Central Los Angeles, he was raised by working parents, which in itself puts him well ahead of the usual gangsta stereotype.

He reportedly began writing rap as a student at William Howard Taft High School, a racially and economically mixed school in the San Fernando Valley community of Woodland Hills, where the median income tops $70,000. Not too ghetto. Despite the cultural handicap of graduating from a decidedly un-ghetto high school, he dropped out of college to join young Dr. Dre and others to form the angry N.W.A., short for "Niggaz With Attitude," best known for the 1989 underground hit "[Expletive] Tha Police."

Yet, now in his mid-30s, a different, family-oriented Cube has emerged in such comedies as Barbershop and Are We There Yet? I eagerly await the satisfaction of seeing him yell at his kids to turn down that profane rap music.

In the meantime, as 50 Cent trumpets his "rubbin'" work and a former N.W.A. promotes his family values, I need not wonder why so many of our kids today are so morally confused. Maybe that's just my generation talking.

Clarence Page is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His column appears Tuesdays and Fridays in The Sun. His e-mail is cptime@aol.com.

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